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Tips for staff returning after furlough

01 Jun 2020 | Carolyne Crowe


Returning to work after furlough can be both daunting and exciting, Carolyne Crowe and Elly Russell from VDS Training share advice and tips on how to approach the changes.

Tips for staff returning after furlough Image

So, you’ve been on the bench at home for a good few weeks and you have now had the call saying that your practice would like you to return to work.  How do you feel? What is going through your mind?

At a time of extreme uncertainty one of the few things that is certain is that everyone’s COVID experience is different.  The reality of your time on furlough will be unique to you and returning to work is likely to present a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges.  Maybe you have been home-schooling your children, fielding never ending questions about imperfect fractions and the chance of a quietish consulting room with the opportunity of finishing a cup of coffee before it goes cold might feel like a real positive. At the same time, the challenges of sorting childcare might represent a big black cloud blotting out the potential wins.  Or maybe you have been home alone, feeling isolated from friends and family and are really looking forward to getting back to some banter with colleagues and clients. But this might also bring worries about getting back up to speed with new ways of working, protocols, and procedures or you may be concerned that mixing with the public means visiting vulnerable family is not going to get safer any time soon.

Whatever your perspective, taking some time before returning to work to think through how you are feeling and why, will be time well spent. Consider jotting down your ideas, concerns and expectations for returning to work and think about sharing these with your manager. It may not be possible to address all your concerns but having them heard is valuable and avoiding a mismatch in expectations about how the return to work will go might ward off potential conflict further down the track.

Control over what our future might hold feels in short supply now and many of us feel uncertain and anxious.  These feelings may have been exacerbated by the experience of being furloughed, especially if it is not what you would have chosen. Returning to new ways of working and routines that you may not have had an active role in building might also serve to reduce a sense of agency – feeling you have the ability to affect what is happening around you.

Whilst we cannot control what has happened or what will happen, we can control how we approach the here and now. Think about how you will approach your new work environment. Yes, things have changed, yes there will be challenges but there may be some real wins for you in this new normal that you have not yet experienced. We tend to find what we look for in life: positives can be found hiding around perhaps not every corner but at least a few of them if you set out to find them. Of course, it will not be perfect but being open minded and intrigued about the changes and approaching new ways of working with curiosity can help. Remember everyone’s experience so far will be different, ask colleagues how they have been getting on, what they have learnt so far, how they make it work. We are in it together, lean into the relationships and conversations as you return to work so you can see what is happening and the new ways of working from everyone’s perspective.

Finally, as Brene Brown would say try to ‘sit out of judgment’. Avoid judging yourself too harshly as you reacclimatize to Covid-style veterinary care, it will take time to get used to the changes. Try not to judge the changes put in place in your absence: share ideas and insights as they crop up but share these kindly. In this world of uncertainty there are no ‘right’ answers and new ways of working have been agreed and implemented at pace with best intentions at heart. Above all, build on the positives for you and for your practice, find and strengthen what is working well and embrace being part of a bright future for yourself and your practice.


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