30 Sep, 2020
As the Government’s furlough scheme is set to end at the end of October, our Business Development Specialist, Stacey Humm, talks about her experience of furlough and gives her top tips for anyone returning to work shortly.
I am sure many people can relate when I say that those first two weeks of lockdown back in March were HARD! Juggling working, home schooling a 5-year-old and looking after a very mischievous 2-year-old was tough. I’m not sure the word stressed quite covers it. However, when the chance of voluntary furlough came up, I can’t say I jumped at the chance. For me, it certainly wasn’t the easy option. I love working at ISO QSL and the thought of not doing it for an undetermined amount of time wasn’t appealing. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was what I needed to do to for my family. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, I chose to furlough whereas I know for many in other industries it was not a choice.
Being at home with the children and not working for 5 ½ months was certainly a learning curve for me. Let’s just say that I don’t think the teaching profession will be giving me a call to recruit me any time soon! I can’t deny throughout that time I was nervous that I may not have a job to come back to. I was all too aware that the economic outlook for many businesses was (and remains) somewhat troubled. In terms of ISO QSL, they coped perfectly well without me for 5 ½ months so why have me back? When I took the call from Jennifer our MD that they wanted me back more not less time that pre-furlough, I was delighted. My experience of furlough made me realise how much I enjoyed my job, loved working with the ISO team, missed having contact with businesses and ultimately needed to use my brain!
My first day back in the office felt like the start of a new school term not just for the kids but for me too. I was so excited I even laid out my clothes the night before and packed my lunch all ready to go! My return to work has been brilliant with both management and the team being so supportive but after a few weeks in, there are definitely some tips I can share to help both employers welcoming employees back and employees who may be returning back over the coming weeks.
- Create a new routine for yourself: Working life is quite different to being on furlough and probably how it was when you last worked. Get used to getting up at the same time, having breakfast at the same time, dressing appropriately for work/video calls etc, preparing yourself mentally for a day of work. Kids may start school at different times, you may be homeworking rather than office based (more so after the recent Government announcement) afterschool clubs may not be running so you may have to split working sessions. Whatever it maybe, get in to a routine to find a new balance.
- Be aware that some business processes may have changed: Throughout the pandemic many businesses have changed the way they do things. Teams working from home, daily catch ups, video calls and new technology are all things you may have to get used to. Take some time to familiarise yourself with these changes. If you are an employer, it’s a good idea to conduct a mini induction with someone starting back to get them up to date with any changes.
- Don’t be afraid: Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know/can’t remember how something is done, where documents are kept or passwords. These things are easily forgotten when you are not doing them day in day out. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Take breaks: It’s easy to feel like because you have been off you need to get stuck in for hours on end to ‘catch up’ with work. In truth, work is a lot more tiring when you haven’t done it for a while and it’s not productive to sit for hours at the laptop. If you’ve spent a lot of time outside during lockdown you may find you crave fresh air. Pencil in regular breaks, maybe a walk around the block at lunchtime, to make sure that you don’t reach burnout point by the end of the day.
- Take care of yourself: During furlough it’s likely that looking after you was not a priority. Now that you are back at work make sure you get the work/life balance right. Take the time for a bit of self care – eat well, cut out the mid-week ‘furlough merlots’, get to bed at a reasonable time, put some makeup on, paint your nails, get your hair done, get some exercise, whatever it may be that works for you but treat yourself right.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: If you’ve been off for a while, it will take a while to get back in to the swing of things. It may take you longer to do things, you may lack motivation or struggle to concentrate for long periods of time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take time to settle back in.
- Communicate: Whilst not everyone in your workplace may have been on furlough, we are all in this pandemic together, so talk to your colleagues, your line manager, your HR Manager about any issues you have about your return to work whether it is anxiety about coming back, childcare issues, or lack of confidence they are all there to support you.
And for the team having someone back after furlough:
- Be welcoming and make them feel part of the team again.
- Be forgiving if someone asks you something really obvious because they have forgotten!
- Be helpful if someone looks like they need some reminding of how things are done.
- Don’t act like they’ve been off on holiday. For many, furlough has taken a huge toll on mental health and having it treated like a holiday could have a massive impact on that.
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