How you can encourage furloughed employees back to work
1 July 2021

How you can encourage furloughed employees back to work

We share three ways HR teams can welcome back furloughed employees and keep them happy


Maryam Munir

Maryam Munir

Maryam Munir worked as a content marketing writer at Ciphr from 2019 to 2021.


Employee engagement Leadership and management


We share three ways HR teams can welcome back furloughed employees and keep them happy

As of 30 April 2021, around 3.4 million people were on furlough, with a total of 11.5 million jobs having been supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, at a cost of £64bn. Now, with the furlough scheme coming to an end in late September 2021, HR need to ensure they are prepared to welcome back furloughed employees.

While being put on furlough made some people anxious about their career and income, for others it was a much-needed break from work, and a break that some wish to extend. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions, former business secretary Dame Andrea Leadsom said that some organisations in her South Northamptonshire constituency “simply can’t get people to come back to work” because they had become used to being on furlough and want to enjoy time off.

As a result, HR have to be aware that some of their employees might not even want to return to the workplace, and for those who do, effort has to be put in to make them feel welcomed and valued again – here are three ways HR can encourage furloughed employees back to work and retain them.


1. Provide accurate timings for return

When you start to bring furloughed employees back, or start to convince them to return, make sure you provide them with accurate dates for their return in order to avoid confusion.

Furloughed employees want to know what is happening and should therefore be given a timeline and dates – even if provisional – which states when employers want them back at work. These dates can give furloughed employees enough time to start preparing for their return to work and gives them enough time to raise any queries or concerns they may have about working again.


2. Let employees know about changes

When new starters join, or employees return from maternity or paternity leave, HR should make sure that they are aware of any changes the organisation may have recently gone through and what this means for their role. The situation for furloughed employees should be the same.

You should communicate with furloughed employees and make sure they know what changes have been implemented in the workplace since they were placed on furlough. If you haven’t been sending out communications during their furlough period to inform them of changes to health and safety procedures, working practices and company policies, make sure you inform them of this before they return.

If you can set up face-to-face meetings with furloughed employees who will be returning, do so. This in-person contact can help them bond with colleagues and managers again and can make them feel at ease again while putting any doubts about returning to work at rest.


3. Manage wellbeing

During furlough, employees may have got some much-needed rest and been able to focus on improving their health and wellbeing. If they associate work with a decline in their mental health and wellbeing, they may not want to return.

As a result, you should reassure employees that you are taking action to focus on their mental health and wellbeing. Let them know that they can talk to HR about any concerns they may have about coming back to work, give existing employees and line managers the mental health training they need in case furloughed employees struggle upon their return, or create a buddy system with colleagues who remained at work so furloughed employees know that they have support if needed.

For some furloughed employees, going back to full-time work may no longer seem attractive and may impact their wellbeing. If possible, introduce more flexible working arrangements so furloughed employees can work fewer hours or days if they prefer – if they are worried about travelling to work and being in an office, give them the choice to work remotely.

For all employees and employers, the end of the furlough scheme means having to adjust to changes once again. However, by communicating regularly with all staff and being transparent with each other, you can help create a positive workplace for furloughed employees to return to.