How to Keep Your Skills Sharp When Returning to Work After Furlough
Have you been furloughed from work during the recent lockdown? Are you wondering how to prepare and put yourself in the strongest position for when you return?
Returning to work following a prolonged absence can be daunting and intimidating for anyone. And the global pandemic and the furlough scheme have meant that an unprecedented number of people have had to take time off work and some have even been forced to accept redundancy.
In many fast-paced industries, stepping back, if only for a while, can lead to feeling like you’ve fallen behind. So much of what we learn at work is because of discussion with colleagues, so workers who have been furloughed, as well as employees who have been homeworking, may have missed out on these subtle developments.
But there are ways you can be proactive, build your confidence and go back to work with your skills polished and feeling more confident than you were before.
Refine existing skills and develop new ones
During furlough leave, you may have already chosen to invest your time in upskilling or re-skilling. It may have been a time of reflection, in which you had the space to develop areas of your professional interest and skillset that had previously been neglected in the busyness of everyday life.
Equally, you may have been aware of changes happening at work, because of the pandemic or otherwise, which meant your role and what is expected of you has evolved.
Whatever your reasons, taking the time and effort to upskill or re-skill will always benefit you. Not only will it prepare you for returning to your existing role, but it will also boost your confidence and put you in a stronger position to pursue a promotion or different roles in the future.
There are a variety of ways you can access resources to help you develop your skills. Attending virtual industry conferences, webinars and other online events are a great way to learn and grow your network.
Enrolling on online training courses will help target and build on your skillset in even more depth. Training opportunities range from short one-off courses, to part-time or full-time courses at varying qualification levels. Choose something relevant that interests you, fill a gap in your skillset and that realistically suits the amount of time you have available.
Engage with your network
A great way for furloughed employees to keep up to date with industry knowledge and developments is to follow, reach out and engage with your network. Whether you do that on LinkedIn or through other professional learning or networking forums, it will be hugely beneficial in preparing you for your return to work.
Connecting online with colleagues and other professionals in your field will create learning opportunities and keep your skills in check. Following relevant companies and fellow professionals, reading articles posted by respected industry experts and engaging in discussion will all help.
You may also use these channels to check in with clients and let them know you’re returning from furlough, to nurture existing professional relationships or spark new ones.
Keep the lines of communication open
Keeping in touch with managers and colleagues while you’re on furlough helps you keep up to speed with any developments and means you can hit the ground running when the time comes. The coronavirus pandemic has been a period of unprecedented change – systems, structures and the way people work have evolved to meet the needs of the ‘new normal’ and it’s important to have an ongoing insight into the new working environment that you’ll go back to.
If you have missed training while you’ve been on furlough, find out if you can catch up with it before you go back. Talk to your managers to find out about changes and other developments you may have missed.
If your workload has been partially covered by your colleagues, try to find a mutually agreeable time to discuss a hand-over. There may also be an opportunity for colleagues to continue with some of your responsibilities, allowing you to diversify your role and offer or develop new skills that benefit your company.
It’s also worth considering a phased return to work, so discuss this with your managers. A phased return allows you to balance returning with learning and refreshing skills as well as managing other factors such as caring, childcare or home-schooling responsibilities. Remote working may also be a way to aid the transition.
Look after your mental wellbeing and focus on the future
Everyone’s experience of the pandemic, and being furloughed, will be different. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, so be mindful of your mental health – try to immerse yourself in positivity and avoid social media if it isn’t helpful to you.
Focusing on the longer term and the post-Covid future can help to increase motivation, stay positive and keep your mind sharp.