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Many companies have policies for smoothing the transition from maternity leave, but bringing dads back to work either from furlough or extended working from home is new for employers and employees.
Returning to work after a lengthy break is a new experience for dads. And there are unique circumstances that employers need to consider as they bring workers back from furlough.
Those dads that have been working throughout the lockdown are being increasingly urged by senior politicians to return to their workplace. (Though, confusingly, current official advice is to work from home if you can.)
The government furlough scheme is moving into its wind down phase. That means bosses must make decisions about their workforce for the future. Those that are brought back into work face new challenges.
Many companies will have policies to help women returning from maternity leave. And there’s been a boom in returner programmes in recent years aimed at smoothing the transition back to work for those that have been out for some time.
But the Covid crisis has thrown up particular issues.
We’ve set out some of the considerations that top employers will need to think about when bringing dads back to work either from furlough or from an extended period of working from home..
Many men have spent more time around their families than ever before. With a total of four to six weeks holiday in a year and just two weeks of statutory paternity leave most men who have either been working from home or on furlough will never have been around their families for over four months at a stretch. Even those used to working from home would not normally have had their children there too because nurseries and schools were shut.
Separating from their families again to go into work, or to find time for work at home, will be a challenge mentally and practically.
Good employers will recognise this and seek to start conversations with their employees before they are due to start back
So often key to a successful relationship of any kind. It’s going to be worthwhile having a frank and open conversation about each employee’s lockdown experience. It’s been a mixed bag for most of us so encourage employees to think about what they’ve enjoyed about furlough or working from home and what has been a challenge. Then work to let them keep the good bits and look at what can be done to mitigate the harder stuff
The school summer holidays are often a stressful time for parents anyway. Some dads might have been expecting to remain at home or on furlough through August but are now required to return to work.
Many nurseries remain closed. Hardly any holiday clubs are running. Getting back up from grandparents remains tricky, particularly if they are shielding.
Discuss what employees needs are around childcare and work together to find a solution that suits everyone. Lockdown has shown that work can be flexible. Keeping it that way now will help engender loyalty and flexibility that will be necessary going into choppy economic waters.
Aside from practical issues returning to work will evoke mental health challenges. Many people will feel anxious about going back to a workplace. There will be an inevitable loss of confidence among those that have been furloughed and haven’t done any work for a few months.
Communication is key here again. Explain in as much detail as possible how and why the company is bringing people back. And be clear about what is expected of each employee as they get back to work. People can’t be expected to hit the ground running after such a long time away, even if that is what is required to get their firm back up to speed. Give and take on both sides will help.
When many people have not left their locality in months the thought of travelling further or getting on public transport will cause some stress. This could be a key area to address. Again, flexible working can be used to make things easier. That could mean working from home. Or it could mean staggering start times and drawing up new shift patterns.
Government sources are advising avoiding peak travel times and encouraging other ways to get to work. Have you bike racks near your place of work? Is it time to join the government cycle to work scheme if you haven’t already?
Also bear in mind that some working dads have missed the commute. They enjoyed having a bit of time to mentally adjust between work and home. If possible perhaps they could be brought back to the workplace first.
A huge challenge for line managers is going to be managing employees’ different attitudes to coronavirus.
While some people followed government guidance to the letter, others are more lax about measures like mask-wearing. This could create tensions in the workplace.
The best way to address this is to be clear about the hygiene measures in place and what’s expected of employees. Everyone needs to know how and with whom to raise concerns. And line managers will need support to manage any disputes or examples of people failing to follow the rules.
Empathy is almost always good for company culture. Employees should be encouraged to understand the concerns of others.
The nation has proved remarkably resilient through the spring but there will be mental health concerns as we come out of lockdown. Evidence suggests the shift brought about by coronavirus has been particularly difficult for working dads. Previous mental health conditions may have been exacerbated. Others will present with new cases of anxiety or depression. Many people have lost loved ones to Covid. Employees may still be processing grief, particularly given the restrictions on seeing loved ones and around funerals.
Employ empathy to avoid making assumptions and make mental health check-ins part of the return to work process where appropriate.
Overall, empathy and communication are going to be key to managing the return to work for working dads, both as employers and employees. It’s yet another strange phase of a unique and difficult experience for many.
If you’ve any further thoughts on helpful strategies to smooth the transition process leave a comment below or get in touch.
And do take part in our dads survey to help us understand your experience of lockdown. The more information we have the better advice and policy responses can be shared.