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Back with a BANG; Returning confidently to work after being furloughed

What a year it's been! This week marked the 12 month anniversary since the UK went into lockdown, and we've all been reflecting.

Part of me can't believe it has been a year, and the other part of me can't remember what it's like to have a normal routine!


Lockdown hit the UK hard, it's fair to say. I have seen so many pieces of content online saying things like "We're all in the same boat". I do find solidarity somewhat encouraging and so I appreciated this. But I've also noticed different perspectives saying "We're not in the same boat, We are in the same storm. But some of us are on a private yacht and some of us in a rapidly sinking dinghy" which I definitely resonated with.


Take my Dad for instance. As a dry-stone waller, he works alone in a remote field all day. His life hasn't really changed as he has still been able to work the past year. Obviously there's the inconveniences of the pub being shut and not being able to see family members that has been tough, but in terms of a routine, he's been able to remain sane during this time.


But take another friend of mine, who has been on furlough for 6 months, made redundant, got another job and subsequently been furloughed yet again. Living in the middle of a busy city with no garden or outdoor space, and not being able to leave the flat. The 2 scenarios are worlds apart.




Now we are in a position where the return to work is imminent, I can't help but notice whilst we are all chomping at the bit to get back to normal, there are a large number upon us who are feeling a mix of anxiety and apprehension about the return to work.


What if I can't remember how to do my job?

What if I can't react to situations as efficiently as I used to?

I've not driven my car for 6 months, and certainly not that distance. I'm worried about the journey to work never mind what happens when I get there.

Will my old colleagues all still be there?

Will my manager have changed?

Will we be split between working from home and the office?

How will I now juggle family life vs my career?


I think it is totally understandable to have these considerations. The truth is, when we are out of the habit of having to consider all of these things it can be daunting to dive right back into such a fast paced life again.

I reflected on this, and realised this is how women or men who have been on maternity or paternity must have been feeling for years....How do I incorporate work now my life and routine have been turned upside down?!


Having done some research on what many people felt most anxious about, I've put together 5 tips to start getting ready to return to work.


Tip 1: Crafting a winning schedule. Certainly in office work, we find our day is ruled by 2 things; your email inbox and your calendar. I want you to get back into the habit of shaping your day using a digital calendar. I personally use Google Calendars, you can access this for free by setting up a Gmail account.

Write down all of your daily tasks even if it's just "put load of washing on" or "school run". Then, plot them into the calendar with how long they take and colour code based on importance. This simple act helps you to make some sort of structure from your day, but also see where your gaps of time are. When we are just pottering around the house we can lose hours at a time and not know what we've been up to! Look at the gaps and think: "How could I be more productive here..." The Goal is to keep adding tasks in to get back into the habit of having a full schedule that is prioritised by what's really important, and what can wait.


Tip 2: Get to the bottom of what you are most worried about. Take out a journal/note pad and pen (you know I love a good journalling session!) and write out the following questions.


How am I feeling?

What am I truly worried about happening when I return?

How might this hold me back?

How would it feel if I could remove this fear and focus more on my work?

Is there anyone I could talk to for advice on this?

What first steps can I take to prepare me for this?


Tip 3: Try to "brush up" on learning. There are unlimited resources out there in the form of books, podcasts and online courses. Your journalling exercise may have highlighted some knowledge based concerns. If this is the case, take some time to read up on some industry related content to get used to the terminology again. If there's a knowledge gap, take some time to research and re-introduce these topics to your mind.


Tip 4: Planning ahead. This sounds basic, but a lot of people on long term leave worry about juggling home/work life when they are back in the grind. By creating a meal plan for you and your family and batch cooking, it's one less thing to think about.

Be kind to the future you. It's likely on your first week back you will be feeling a bit frazzled or drained at the end of each day as you adjust to a new routine. Have home cooked meals rather than resorting to takeaways and you will thank yourself later on! (P.s, save the takeaway for Friday or Saturday night to congratulate yourself on surviving the week!)


Tip 5: Affirmations. Affirmations might not be for everyone, but they absolutely work.

A really powerful affirmation will start with the words "I AM"

You can use these affirmations to CHALLENGE any negative thoughts that come up.

Positive affirmations are a fantastic way to really boost your confidence. It can feel quite strange to repeat statements about yourself, but by doing this daily, studies have shown that we can maintain our sense of self-integrity by telling ourselves (or affirming) what we believe in positive ways.

Think about a time in the past when you were at work, totally in flow, smashing it! Now get your list ready and write down all of the ways you are great at your job. e.g. I provide excellent customer experiences, I am extremely diligent in everything I do, I am often praised for my managerial skills.


With all of this in mind it's important to acknowledge one thing: Change is inevitable. Not to panic you, but it's extremely likely there will have been change whilst you've not been working. I encourage you to try to embrace this change, and commit to being one of the people who return to work with a proactive, solutions focussed outlook. There will be plenty of people who resist this change, and you want to make a good impression with your boss.


Now, if you're feeling a bit of resistance around putting these tips into action and wondering if they'll work, I understand. It's common to get into an unproductive slump when you have more time than you can fill.


But consider this.


Imagine 2 scenarios.


Day 1 of returning to work, having not attempted implementing any of the suggested tips. You're probably still anxious and scolding yourself for not making more of an effort.

or

Day 1 of returning to work, having regularly implemented the suggested tips. You may still be dubious about the affirmations perhaps, but you've practiced tangible skills to get your head back in the game.


I know which one I'd prefer!


I hope these tips were interesting for you. I've been particularly interested in this topic and considered creating a mini-course for a boost of positivity for people who are preparing to return to work. What do you think? DM me on Instagram if you agree, or want to share any personal challenges you think should be addressed!


One final thing: you are amazing and you'll be surprised at how delighted your place of work are to have you back! You're conscientious and valued. Enjoy it....

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