How to engage employees returning to work after furlough

How to engage employees returning to work

Conducting return to work one to one meetings to engage employees returning to work after furlough or working from home

As more of your team return to work, they will probably be returning with a mix of emotions. Some will welcome getting back to some routine, others may have missed to social aspects of work, and others are just relieved they still have a job to come back to.

But despite that, many will have concerns about their long term future. Some may be uncomfortable about changes to their role, and some may be anxious about their safety, either within work or on their journey to work.

If left to fester, these concerns can have a big impact.

Not just on the person concerned, but as this gets picked up by colleagues, it can have a knock on effect on how they feel and how engaged they are too.

All of which ultimately has an impact on productivity and your customers’ experience.

One way to help engage employees returning, is to conduct return to work 1:1 meetings with everyone. This is something I’ve been helping a couple of my clients with over the past few weeks.

Unlike a regular one to one (which are always important to engage employees at any other time) these won’t focus so much on reviewing performance, but will be geared towards looking forward.

Here is the 7 step CLEARER framework I’ve created to engage employees returning to work

1. Connect

The easiest way to make a connection is to ask about their time on furlough. What have they been up to? What’s been good about their time at home? Have they taken up any new hobbies, discovered or rediscovered things that are important to them or activities they enjoy, have any of their priorities in life changed as a result of time away from work?

2. Listen

It’s important to discover how they feel about being back at work. What concerns do they have, what questions about the business, their role, new ways of working? Some people are very good at putting on a brave face; listen to their tone and watch their body language. Listen out for the things they don’t say or any questions they avoid answering. You may need to do some ‘fluff busting’ to get to the heart of any concerns. (Fluff busting works well in any situation when it’s important to get to the heart of the matter)

3. Establish expectations

It’s inevitable that some ways of working and duties will have changed. If there are duties that used to be part of their role that are now less of a priority, explain why this is. If these were tasks they did well or took a particular pride in doing, be sensitive to how you handle this, so they don’t get the impression that their previous efforts were not appreciated.

4. Agree any actions

As a result of your discussion they may have some suggestions, so make it clear how these will be actioned, by whom and when. Check what they need from you, and your commitment to do what’s needed, so you both know where you stand.

5. Reassure

Let them know you are there to support them, and to come to you with later questions, concerns or suggestions. Reassure them of your commitment to their safety and ongoing support.

6. Enthuse, excite and energise

It’s all too easy to dwell on the past few months. Behaviour breeds behaviour, so demonstrate your enthusiasm and excitement about the opportunities ahead.

7. Review date

Set follow up dates with everyone. Even though you’ve told them you are there for them, some would never initiate a conversation or come to you for help unless it’s in the privacy of a scheduled one to one meeting.

Of course, don’t forget those team members still on furlough or working from home. It’s still important to maintain regular contact with them too.

If you only do one thing to engage employees returning to work:

Get a date in the diary today to sit down with each of your team on a one to one basis. Then stick to it!

Here’s a short video on conducting back to work one to ones (which I recorded before creating the CLEARER framework)


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