As businesses around the world begin to make preparations for a return to the workplace, or restart operations after a period of inactivity, arrangements to bring back employees to physical worksites from remote setups are coming into focus. There are big questions around the best ways to bring people back into work, whether a return to office should happen, and what this means as we define the ‘new normal.’ 

Moving closer to a return to a level of normal day-to-day functioning, it is likely that a mixture of approaches will be adopted by businesses. However, it is more important than ever to consider the thoughts and feelings of your employees during this transition, particularly when reintegrating your furloughed staff. Consider lessons learned from similar processes whereby employees have returned from leave or a period away from the business, for example, parents returning from parental leave.

If you are unsure about the best steps to take when reintegrating your furloughed staff, whether this is while operating remotely or when Government guidelines are adapted to support office-based work, here are our top tips and key considerations for determining the best approach for your business. 

Assess your talent requirements and team’s capacity 

It is important to assess the requirements of your team and determine how you will want your people to operate moving forward. While longer-term objectives are likely to have shifted, this is an opportunity to realign team goals and structure to best support the company vision.

Consider:

  • The roles and responsibilities of all your employees – are there any gaps? Would the organisation benefit from different skill sets?

  • The current team structure – does it work? Could a change make processes and people more efficient?

  • Training and development - is there a need for additional training and support to close knowledge gaps or to enable returning employees to perform their job more efficiently?

Build on engagement with employees while on furlough leave

The level of engagement you maintained with your employees while they were on furlough should be used as the base from which to initiate and build a plan for their return. Conversations should be able to steer your plan of action based on their changed circumstances and home setup. 

Consider:

  • Perceptions of the company - how might the process have changed your employees' perception of the company?

  • Changed relationships - have relationships changed between those that have been furloughed and those that have not?

  • Feelings about returning to work – are they able to jump straight back into a full working week? Do they feel comfortable about their commute into the office? 

There will likely be mixed thoughts about returning to work and eventually the office. It is important to clarify exactly how your people are feeling, which is where an employee survey to take the pulse of the company is very useful.  

Determine and communicate your strategy for returning employees 

What will the return look like for your furloughed employees? It might be that based on your feedback and structure, an initial return on a part-time basis would work best for some, you may choose to focus on a completely remote reintegration plan or adopt a phased approach back into the office. Longer-term, a blended approach of home working and office-based employees might be preferred or it could be more viable to build processes to ensure home working can be sustained. 

Consider: 

  • Team dynamics – how might the return to work and reintegrate change the way teams work together? 

  • Health and safety – what safety precautions have been put in place to protect people in the office?

  • Home/remote working setups – are people equipped with the right tools for success?

  • Maintaining motivation – are internal processes structured to support teams effectively and ensure that motivation and drive are maintained?

  • Team building – how will relationships between colleagues be rebuilt and developed?

  • Contingency plans – how will potential future lockdowns be managed, or additional safety regulations be put in place?

Once a clear strategy has been decided, be sure to have one-to-one catch ups with furloughed employees to discuss how the plan will impact them personally and the next steps they will need to take. It is important to reiterate that their safety and wellbeing are the priority, and reassure them that all appropriate measures are in place to protect their health if a return to the office is expected.  

If there are cases where a return to work is not possible or your restructure has led to unavoidable redundancies, it is important to ensure you have a structured support programme in place. Career transition services are widely available and can provide much-needed guidance for both the company and individuals involved.

Monitor and adapt your return to work plan if necessary 

It is important to be aware that reintegrating furloughed employees and returning to work will be uncharted territory for all affected by the process. Monitoring the success of your approach is key. 

Consider: 

  • Safety of people – is the health and wellbeing of your people being protected? 

  • Communication strategy – is the team set up supported by clear lines of communication and are there tools to facilitate peer to peer collaboration?

  • Engagement – are your employees still engaged with the business and connected to the business goals? 

  • Feedback – how will you gather feedback on the process from your employees? 

  • Agility – how prepared/capable is the businesses to make fast changes where necessary to better meet the needs of people and adapt to changing regulations? 

Think about how this next period of change might impact your employees’ wellbeing. Some may have enjoyed taking leave and even used the opportunity to get involved in volunteering, others could have struggled with mixed feelings about their security and future with the company.

If you would like to discuss how we can support your business at this time, please get in touch today. Alternatively, why not request a free market insight report to help support your planning for your return to work? Find out more here
 

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