Coming in from Furlough

Coming in from Furlough

More employees are coming in from furlough as restrictions are eased. In this instance, I have not used the term ‘back from furlough’, as it is unlikely that things are ‘back to normal’. A new normal now exists with many changes having to take place. So how do leaders handle motivation, teamwork and mental resilience of their people in these strange and uncertain times?

How do Employees Feel?

Nearly a quarter of the working UK population has been on paid leave, which is now coming to an end for many.  After months of not being at work, some employees will be longing to get back, whilst others may find it hard or are fearful. It is therefore a complex situation which requires exceptional leadership.

Leaders will need to understand and inspire their teams to productively return to work, rather than dragging them back. It is also a potentially unique opportunity to evaluate and change previous working practices for the better.

Do you know how your team feel about returning to work? What are their fears and concerns?


On the announcement of the covid lockdown, most people felt shock and disbelief, then came resignation. Some were lucky enough to keep working, whilst others had to cope with working from home for the first time; or being idle. There will have been a very wide variation of circumstances, opportunities, and coping strategies. As the words of the Eagles’ song go: “This could be heaven, or this could be hell”.

People have responded differently. For some it has been a chance to recuperate and relax, spend time with the family, and take up exercise or learning. For others, it has been a prolonged and stressful nightmare.

The impact of all this can be on mental well-being, physical fitness, loss or gain of knowledge and skills, aspirations, expectations, and overall motivation for work. Your workplace has had to change, but so have your people.

How has it been for you? Do you know how individuals in your team are coping?

One Forward Two Back

The pandemic isn’t over and for some it will be one step forward and two back as restrictions change. This has been seen in Leicester and the re-introduction of quarantine for people returning from Spain. Some may have to cope with fluctuating between working and being furloughed. These adjustments are likely to create frustrations for those concerned.

This will be particularly hard for those that like to feel in control, perfectionists, or idealists. If people have had a tough time during furlough, they may not have the problem-solving energy to address issues or ensure self-care. As a leader, if you understand your team members’ thinking, you can pre-empt and support those who find it harder to cope.

What are your team’s thoughts? How can you communicate the reason for changes better?

Re-Building the Team

Are your team pulling in the same direction?

Even if you had a strong performing team before lockdown, there is no guarantee that the same strength will be there on their return. This will apply more if some have been working whilst others were furloughed. It will pay to spend time listening to individuals and providing some training and coaching to re-build the team. Clear constant communication is vital, especially for those working remotely.

What stage is your team at?


Trust is a critical aspect in any relationship and is a two-way street. If you do not trust your team then why should they trust you? It is a key leadership skill which cannot be demanded; it has to be earned. Trust is affected by your credibility, reliability and approachability underpinned by your self-orientation, which means who you are most interested in – yourself or the team. 

How much do you trust your team and how much do they trust you?


How you speak and act as a leader whilst your team are furloughed or are coming in from furlough will have a big impact on how much trust they have in you to keep them safe. Some aspects to consider are:

  1. Stress and self-care.

These are two primary concerns for yourself and your team to be focused on, as there are still tough times ahead. It requires finding ways to recharge, replenish and refuel the energy to take you all forward. What are the individual motivators in your team? How can you help them find that internal drive?

  • Strategic thinking

You can use the strength of good strategic thinkers in your business to have insights and perceive possible roadblocks to progress. It is also important to get ideas from other trusted sources. You may consider whether you need to improve your own strategic judgement, so you can be more pro-active than reactive. Who are your best strategists and problem solvers? What will be your priority as the next step forward as a team?

  • Improve resiliency

It is never too late to improve mental resiliency or the resilience of the business and there is a wealth of help available to assist you in either aspect. It will pay to have empathy and compassion for individual needs. How strong is your resilience inventory?

  • Positive focus

In crises, it is easy to fall into the trap of only seeing the negative, especially with so much bad news in the media. It is important to get a sound balance of realistic optimism. What are you proud of that you have achieved? What more can you do in future? How can you give more praise to your team?

  • Reflection

Time is well spent reflecting on how you can improve your leadership, team and productivity. What more can you do to stimulate your team daily? What changes do they think need to happen?

Amazing Reality

If you are thinking ‘yes, but in the real world’, please listen to my interview with Rohaise Rose-Bristow, Director of The Torridon, (featured in the BBC programme Amazing Hotels of the World.) What has made an amazing hotel is amazing leadership! Here are her thoughts on leadership of the team coming in from furlough.

A Measure of Judgement

There is the adage ‘what can’t be measured, can’t be managed’. So how do you measure your ability to bring your team up to speed and assess their current energy and resilience? There is a way to accurately measure how you and your team are doing in terms of self-care, problem-solving energy, morale, value of work, strategic thinking, balance of judgement and much more, including where frustrations may occur in the team.

The Judgement Index is a powerful tool that can help you manage the challenges that lie ahead and provide insightful conversations with your team.

If you would like to know more on how we can help you lead those coming in from furlough; either through training, coaching or profiling, please contact me.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

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