“How Do I Welcome Back Furloughed Employees?”

Put simply: Be warm and mindful.

There is no precedent for the current situation, so concrete statements on help with returning to work, already tested by reality, are scarce. What is clear, however:

People Who Have Been on Furlough Are Not Coming Back from a Holiday

Most people who were on forced leave will come back to the company as a slightly different person because they’ve had to deal with enormous uncertainties during the past weeks or months. So be careful with your people, because the stress of not knowing how long you were going to be furloughed for is even higher than that of being fired. In general, those who came back to you are loyal, and should have something to look forward to as they return. One of those things – after months of remote meetings full of glitches and freezing screens – is eye contact:

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In advance, do everything you can to make people feel good about their return: Write a letter to welcome people, ease the usual dress code for a while or decide to do without most other unnecessary guidelines that don’t fit the new situation anymore. Remember the “clocking in and out” convention of the pre-COVID-19 period, for example? It turned out to be quite superfluous.


Be Mindful

Furloughing does not just impact the furloughed staff, but also any staff that remained at work. Tensions between those two groups may occur. So be prepared to conciliate and be sure not to favour either group in any way.

Let both groups get back to speed before you change your attitude (and attire), and focus on support – as much as possible.

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It will take some time for the tensions to ease and for growth rates to return to “normal.” Your planning should, of course, reflect this already, but if you are planning to make further savings: Reboarding a team member who is then dismissed soon afterwards makes little sense. Brent Colescott from sumtotal has some additional ideas on what, in particular, you need to consider when planning these days.

Keep in mind that you don’t want your employees to lose motivation and become less productive. Be positive, and find some more guidance within these pages:

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Make Sure to Communicate Clearly and Transparently

This is a transition period. And transition is the psychological process of accepting and working through change. The most important parts of managing transitions are almost self-evident, yet organizations routinely ignore, forget or neglect them. They include consistency, truthfulness, clarity and communication.

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So, You Are Going Back to Your Desk?

In principle, all the points listed above apply as much to employees who are now returning to work. To ease tensions, talk with your co-workers about the positive aspects of the recent break. They’ll want to hear about your experience, what you did or learned, and how the company might benefit. Your top managers may also want to interview you formally. Before you return to work, think carefully about the different aspects of your experience so that you’re prepared to articulate them.

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