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As the old way of working has now gone and we are all trying to embrace the new norm companies are returning to the workplace with risk assessments in place, social distancing to be adhered to and decisions on how to bring staff safely back to work. What challenges will you face on bringing people back from furlough? 
1. Communication 
 
Make sure your communication is clear. Some people who were furloughed from the outset have been off work for 3 months and for them time in the work place has stood. They may expect to return to exactly the same way of working as pre-lockdown and will certainly not understand exactly how the business and your way of working may have changed. Take time to explain what “business as usual” now looks like the changes that have been implemented and why these changes have happened. A clear redefinition of their role responsibilities will also help them to understand “now” as well as focussing on health & safety and any new policies and procedures you may have introduced. 
 
2. Work and life 
 
Make sure you are clear as to any work-family considerations that you will need to support. Take time to understand what the implications are for someone returning from furlough – is there someone in the household that is shielding and therefore they can’t return to the office yet? Do they have to work around childcare commitments? Many schools are operating shorter opening hours and after school childcare provision is not available in many instances. 
 
3. Furloughed vs those that have worked all the way through 
 
What plans have you got to reintegrate both groups of people? Those that haven’t been furloughed may have found that their workload has increased dramatically to cover for those that have been off, and this can cause resentment. In addition, they may see that those on furlough have just had an extended period of time on holiday at Costa-del-Sofa. You may also find that those that have worked throughout have taken on extra responsibilities that they may not be too willing to hand back. How can you get both sides together and working effectively? 
 
4. Employee protection 
 
Talk to those that you have returning to the workplace to understand their concerns around safety back at work. Whilst many organisations have opted to continue to work from home at the moment there are others that have acknowledged that whilst this is the preferred option for many of their workforce for others, they want to get back to an office environment. This could be as a result of living alone and therefore working alone too is too much, there could be real mental health implications for some. Why not run a questionnaire amongst the entire workforce to work out what the consensus is to move forward and also to give proper consideration for individual cases? 
 
On top of these main challenges, you may also be operating with a backdrop of likely redundancies or an uncertain company future. Keep communicating and look at how you can also support those that you may need to let go to ensure that your remaining workforce remains settled and focussed. 
 
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