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Returning to work after furlough

Written by: Ethan Cumming
Published on: 26 Jun 2020

With businesses reopening and an end date fixed for the furlough scheme, some employers are starting a phased return of their staff. Here's our advice for returning to work after furlough.

Returning to work after furlough

According to the results of BusinessLive’s recent Great Big Business Survey, over half of the businesses polled had taken advantage of the government’s furlough scheme since it came into effect in March, with 28.5% reporting they had furloughed more than 75% of their workforce.

However, as lockdown restrictions are slowly eased and some semblance of normality returns, 28% of businesses indicated that they plan to bring back all of their furloughed staff before the scheme officially ends at the end of October, while a further 16% hoped to bring back at least some of their employees. 

With some legal professionals now furloughed for 3 months or more, returning to work is going to present a unique set of challenges for many members of our audience over the summer and autumn. Here’s our advice for having the smoothest and most successful return to work after furlough.

  • Go easy on yourself and give yourself time to settle back in
  • Look for practical opportunities to regain your confidence
  • Apply new learnings to your career
  • Reach out to your network and ask your contacts how they are
  • Think about the future and what you want from your career


Go easy on yourself

Those working in the legal profession know about the stress, high pressure and long working hours that come with the territory, so it’s not always going to be possible to guarantee yourself a relaxed first few days back at work.

However, it is important to go easy on yourself and give yourself time to settle back into the rhythm and routine of working life if you can. It’s likely to take a day or two for you to adjust, so if you can clock off on time and avoid any unnecessary stressful situations then do so.


Regain your confidence

That being said, in your first few days back at work after furlough you should be looking for any practical opportunities to regain your confidence and get back into the swing of things. So, if being successful in a stressful situation is what you need to get into the working headspace, then get stuck in.

Others might gain their confidence from helping people, reaching out to potential new clients or making sure their work station is organised. Everyone is different, so respect your own process as well as those of your colleagues and before long things will start to slot back into place for the whole team.


Apply new learnings

Whether you’ve been taking part in professional development courses online, indulging in your hobbies, or a bit of both while on furlough, chances are that you will have learned something new over the past weeks and months.

Before returning to work, think about how these new learnings could be applied to your current job. If you’ve taken a course in communication, for example, consider how you are going to make sure that your career benefits from your newly developed skills, or if you’ve been learning a language perhaps you could talk to your employer about any work-related travel opportunities.


Reach out to your network

Now that you’re heading back to work - whether in the office or remotely - it’s a good idea to get in touch with some of the key figures in your professional network.

Whether you’re checking in on a colleague to see how they are doing, letting a loyal client know that you’re coming off of furlough or reaching out to someone you were supposed to meet at a recent industry event, giving your professional relationships some attention can be a great way to ease yourself back into work. Remember that everyone is in the same situation and a simple “How are you?” can go a long way.


Think about the future

A lot has changed over the past few months, both professionally and otherwise, making this a good time to think about your career and what you want from the future. For example, perhaps you spent some time over the last few months working from home and you don’t really want to give up the increased flexibility that comes with being remote.

It’s likely that employers in the legal profession will be more open to flexible working arrangements now than they were at the beginning of the year - in fact, Slater & Gordon recently announced that its London office will be closing permanently with all staff continuing to work from home permanently - so speak with your manager about how you might carry on working in agile or remote ways in the future.

Do you have any other tips for returning to work after furlough? Drop us a comment on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to let us know.