ore than a quarter of workers nationwide are now on the government’s furlough scheme, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, which forced many businesses to completely shut up shop in March.
Those in the leisure, retail, and hospitality sectors are some of the worst affected with 80 per cent of workers in the sector now being paid their wages by the government. The scheme is so large it has cost the Treasury approximately ?20bn to run so far.
Some furloughed workers may have found themselves called back to work in recent weeks – as many businesses reopened on 4 July – undoubtedly an adjustment after months spent at home waiting for a call.
But others will still be reliant on the scheme, as employers weigh up whether they can afford to bring everyone back; on 8 July, Rishi Sunak announced that businesses will be paid ?1,000 for every furloughed employee they bring back, but for some, even this will not be incentive enough to stop redundancies.
Whether you end up returning to work for your current employer or have to face the prospect of looking for a new job, returning to work can be mentally daunting after such a significant amount of time at home. Some may worry that they will not be able to perform as well as they had been before lockdown, while others may struggle to adopt a clear-cut structure within their working day.
Here is how you can reframe your mind to adopt a working mindset after months of change, according to experts.
“The most obvious way to do that is to start to get back into the habit of getting up at a certain time and going to bed in a certain time,” he says, recommending that people also consider dressing in their “typical work attire” again to get into a productive state of mind.
Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, says that it could be useful to “reframe” the idea of going back to work “as a challenge to get back into a routine, rather than a threat taking it away”.
Qualified business coach Emma Jefferys, who trades under the name Action Woman, recommends mapping out the hours of your day to help ease yourself back into a routine, allocating time for work and breaks. “If you are over or underestimating how long things take, then you can adjust accordingly,” Jefferys states.
If these feelings sound familiar, there are exercises you can do to take note of your mental state and ease any worries that you may have.
Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, recommends doing a short mindfulness meditation in the morning to help you “set a clear intention for the day”.
“We all have good and bad days, and as we gradually enter our ‘new normal’ some people might be experiencing more anxiety,” Dr Touroni says.
Reid explains that human beings are “hard-wired to think negatively about situations”, which is why trying your best to focus your attention on the positives could be worthwhile.
“When you find yourself dwelling on the negatives make a point of thinking about the positives,” he says. “Perhaps think about the work relationships you are going to value or your favourite sandwich shop at lunchtime.”
Jefferys recommends asking for a “return to work meeting” with your manager, where you can “be honest about what is on your mind”, if you are worried about job performance or security.
Caroline Whaley, co-founder of coaching consultancy Shine, emphasises that people who have been furloughed and are returning to work will have had unique experiences during their time off.
“Individual situations are so different that there’s no one single mindset. Our research shows very clearly that younger people – particularly those living alone or those that have been furloughed – are really struggling to maintain their energy and motivation and are worrying whether they will be the first ones to lose their jobs,” she says.
Whaley stresses that employers must make strong efforts to understand this fact, and to not assume that they “know what everybody needs”, which is why communication between employers and employees could help everyone get back into the swing of things.
“Some companies allow for a flexible schedule when returning, starting on reduced hours, having flexible start and finish times or offering a staggered return. The returned needs to feel that they can ask for what they need,” Whaley says.
Dr Naeema Pasha, director of careers and professional development at Henley Business School, expresses her hope that companies will show some understanding with regards to flexible working as employees return to their posts.
“Hopefully the return will go well, and workers won’t be forced back into all the ‘old ways’, as enlightened employers will ideally consider retaining some of the things that employees have said worked well, such as flexible working, more homeworking and less commuting,” Dr Pasha states.
“Think about what you can take forward from the experience. What helped you maintain or improve your resilience? What did you enjoy most about your time on furlough? Think about how you can apply your insights from these experiences in your work,” Hickey says.
Reid adds that during your first few days back at work, reflecting on the elements of the day you most enjoyed “ might help that return back to the workplace be that little bit more manageable”.
Namrata Murlidhar, director of LinkedIn Learning, states that as people return to work, they may find that the “parameters of their roles have changed slightly”, with “new skills now expected of them” as the business adapts. Think about what skills are required of you and “invest time in developing hard and soft skills”, which could give you “something to aim for,” Murlidhar says.
Alister Gray, executive leadership consultant, mindset coach and founder of Mindful Talent, recommends taking up journaling so as to process your situation.