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Maintaining productivity and morale while re-onboarding return employees

5 min read

This year has been unpredictable in many ways, and while things haven’t gotten completely back to 'normal,' we’re starting to experience a shift in returning back to work. Many organisations that have furloughed employees are starting to welcome them back, but the question then becomes: How do you engage (and re-engage) your furloughed employees?

The critical puzzle piece is making sure your employees feel connected to the business and to their fellow employees when they return. 

After months of not working together, it’s only natural that you need to reignite the fire a bit. By embracing open and honest communications, showing appreciation for your people, listening to their needs and making it easy for your employees to find the information they need, you can make the return to work for furloughed employees as seamless as possible. Let’s dive into the four key elements for recalling furloughed employees back to work.

recall furloughed employees

Embracing open and honest communication

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that a lot can happen in a short period of time. It’s important to not only bring your people up-to-speed on changes in the business, but also to connect them to the larger purpose and leadership decisions

Employee safety is at the heart of bringing people back to work, so it’s important to communicate this to your employees and increase visibility of office or workplace changes.

In addition to prioritising employee safety, it’s key to cultivate connection during times of crisis. Your people need to hear from your Leadership Team about what they can expect when they return and they also need to feel excited. Some may feel 'out of loop' or worried about what the future of work could look like, so your leaders and managers need to over-communicate to help employees feel more engaged.  

Here’s an example of how our CEO, Doug Butler, uses our employee experience platform to communicate with our people about what the 'new normal' will look like. 

My biggest piece of advice? You don’t have to have it all figured out before you communicate with your people. Bring them along the journey with you and let them know the why behind certain decisions.

Download our eBook to discover how to engage furloughed employees with  powerful communications and recognition »

Showing appreciation with recognition

Returning back to work can be very motivating for your people – it’s your job to keep spirits high and improve employee motivation during the re-onboarding process with employee recognition. Recognising people during a crisis helps show your people why their work is meaningful and lets them know they’re making an impact.


One of our clients, PDSA, a leading veterinary charity, created new eCards dedicated to welcoming furloughed employees back by showing appreciation for them. These eCards live on a social recognition wall to boost visibility across the entire organisation of over 2,200 employees and connect people who haven’t worked together in a few months.


These eCards are a nod to the next phase of the organisation’s journey and helps motivate employees to work hard towards a shared goal. 

Listening to what your people need

Although you may be welcoming your employees back, you need to understand people’s comfort levels and willingness to return to work. In an ever-changing world, it’s your job to get to the heart of what will help your people perform (and feel) their best.

With employee surveys, you can directly ask employees what they think about returning to work to ensure you create an environment that will help you best connect, recognise and support them.

For example, if you have an important announcement going out to employees who have just come back from furlough, send out a survey to follow up on your communications to ensure that they’ve read the requirements, feel informed about coming back to the office and can express any concerns they may have. 


A lot goes into reopening offices or gearing your people up for temporary remote work, so be sure your efforts are received well on the other end and open up the door for two-way feedback with an empathetic ear.

Using centralised technology 

Right now, HR has a lot of weight on their shoulders. I can speak for my own team here at Reward Gateway – between reopening plans and keeping our people updated daily – there’s a lot going on. But there are many benefits to HR technology and using the right tools to re-engage your people will help you stand out as a leader in your field now and well into the future.

With an employee engagement platform, you can create a dedicated hub to welcome back furloughed employees with resources to re-educate, inspire and motivate them. Here’s an example:


On the 'Return to Work' content hub, furloughed employees can find information about transportation, government updates and office updates, all helping to keep them in the loop about what’s going on or what they may have missed. And remember to make it fun, like creating short videos to show employees what the offices look like to get them excited and give them a sneak peek.

With employee safety at the heart of welcoming back furloughed employees, you can get creative with how you boost motivation. 

Some other ideas for welcoming back furloughed employees include:

 1. Have dedicated messaging channels for returnees
 2. Host return to work feedback sessions by video to get feedback on plans
 3. Remain flexible, and understand employees may change their minds about how and when to return
 4. Ask employees what their plans are at least monthly, so you can plan and track sentiment
 5. Create walk-through videos for each location
 6. Publish new desk plans to increase visibility
 7. Hold return to work meetings before anyone goes back
 8. Number desks so people have allocated seating
 9. Work with local leaders on best plans
 10. Adjust based on local need, focus and requirements

I hope these ideas have got you thinking about the ways that you can welcome your people back and enter the next phase of your engagement journey. This year has been full of challenges, but when we put our people at the centre of everything we do, we can work towards transforming our organisations for the better and creating long-lasting change to help propel us towards the future of work. 

If you have any questions about engaging your employees who are coming back to work from furlough or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on LinkedIn – I’d love to chat with you.

Get in touch with me »

Robert Hicks

Robert is the Group HR Director at Reward Gateway. While running is his top way to unwind, he also loves going to gigs, watching football and cricket, and is known to enjoy the odd ski weekend.

Group HR Director

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