Your five-point checklist to get your career back on track after furlough

One of the many challenges of the past 12 months has been employment, with over 11.2m people placed on furlough at some point during the Covid-19 health crisis. As well as the very immediate financial challenges this has caused, for many there has been a much wider psychological impact with the prospect of getting back into work a daunting one.

There will be a whole raft of reasons that individuals have had to take a forced break from work during the pandemic period. Whether it’s been as a result of furlough, redundancy or even health issues, it’s normal to be nervous and a little apprehensive about returning to work.

The lack of routine, the social isolation, and heightened levels of general anxiety all have an impact on mental health and are very real. You may be worried about what you’ve missed whilst you’ve been away, both professionally and in wider industry. There’s also the reality of the ‘new normal’ we keep hearing about; workplace layouts will be different, we’ll have to continue to social distance, tactile gestures such as a handshake will be discouraged. It’s going to feel very different.

To help you take control of your career following a period of not working, here’s our five-point checklist to get you back to optimum performance:

1. Focus on creating sustainable routines
When returning to work, think about the routines that will help you get into the right mindset for a successful day. It could be setting your alarm a little earlier to allow you to have a coffee before you head out of the door, or it could be carving up your day into smaller sections to allow for calls, email management and space for creative thinking.

Implementing a structure to your day can give a sense of much-needed control, allowing you to improve your focus and organisation as well as your productivity.

2. Think about what you need to support your return to work
Things are going to have changed since you were last at work, especially if you have been on furlough for a long time or have been made redundant and are looking at starting a new job or even pivoting your career.

It may be that you need support with something tangible, such as new tech or equipment. It could be that you need to continue with more flexible working patterns or have a conversation about your base location. It’s also absolutely ok to talk about your mental health too and share any anxieties you have about your return.

If your manager doesn’t instigate these conversations then be proactive and set up some time to talk through what’s on your mind. A good employer will welcome the opportunity to support your transition back into work (and they won’t know how you are thinking/feeling unless you tell them).

3. Prepare yourself to be around people again
One of the biggest challenges of the lockdown period has been social isolation, creating a sense of loneliness and heightened stress for many. Despite this, the prospect of returning to a more social environment can be daunting.

Don’t be too hard on yourself and know that many people will be feeling the same as you. It may take a little time to settle back into old social habits but rest assured you’ll get there. Try to make an effort with conversation; simply asking how someone is or complementing them in some way can make a real difference to your day. Pop in ‘reconnection’ calls or meetings with people in your network and, if you are working virtually, switch your camera on when you’re in video meetings as it creates a much stronger sense of human connection.

Also recognise the emotional impact of missing people who won’t be returning to work, whether through redundancy or for health reasons. Talk to your employer and take advantage of any employee assistance programmes if you feel like you need support with this.

4. Start exercising your brain
If you feel like you haven’t used your brain as much as you should have, be proactive about getting back in the zone.

Plan some self-development, take advantage of apps to focus your mind and increase your productivity, and explore how you can reconnect with your profession to reignite your passion for what you do.
Talk to your employer about courses or training that might be available as well as tapping into the wealth of resources available online to help sharpen your brain and your focus. Dipping into a Ted Talk or podcast can take as little as 10 minutes but will make you feel like you’ve made an effort to reconnect with the “professional you”.

5. Recognise that the last year has been a tough one
People will be in very different places when they return to work after a period of not working. The experience of the last year is hugely individual and that’s ok. Be mindful and respectful of the journey your colleagues and peers have been on and expect the same for yourself. Be kind to yourself and show yourself some compassion – make sure you start your return well and plan in some time for you to make sure you get a balanced return.

If you’d like to talk about the next steps in your career after an extended break then why not get in touch for a free chemistry session to see if this is something we can explore together? Give me a call on 07765 894040.

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