Almost half of furloughed workers reported feeling anxiety towards the prospect of a return to work, indicating more support needed for these employees at all stages. 

New research by Randstad, a recruitment agency, found that of almost 8,000 workers, half felt anxious about returning to work post-COVID (45 per cent).

However, delving further into the findings, the analysis notes that for furloughed staff who had received onboarding that was “very good”, only one in seven (15 per cent) reported feeling anxious about going back to work.

Conversely, for employees which had an onboarding experience which they classed as “poor” or “very poor”, almost two-thirds (61 per cent) felt anxiety towards returning to the office.

Adrian Smith, senior director of operations at Randstad UK, stated the importance of onboarding furloughed staff to re-integrate them back into the company:

It might be arduous for some teams who are spread pretty thin at the moment but while standard onboarding might be expected to last for a couple of weeks to be effective, post-furlough onboarding is much shorter.

Done properly, it will help employees feel more confident and competent when they get back on the job.  It’s about investing the time to protect well-being and to ensure a productive returning workforce.

The study further found that specific sectors were more likely to be carrying out onboarding in a successful way whilst others lagged behind.

Industries such as construction (38 per cent) and property (44 per cent) were significantly more likely to carry out “poor” or no onboarding at all.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, only over a quarter of furloughed employees within construction (27 per cent) reported a negative experience during this process. The industry which was found to be the best at onboarding was rail, with under a fifth of furloughed staff (17 per cent) having a poor experience whilst being onboarded.

Another factor found to contribute to staff anxiety was the amount of wellbeing check-ins with employees to ensure their welfare.

Just over a third of furloughed employees (36 per cent) who had weekly check-ins reported feeling anxious about returning to work. This is compared to over half (54 per cent) who have bimonthly check-ins and two-thirds (64 per cent) who said they had no wellbeing check-ins at all.

As such, Randstad emphasised the need for employers to improve wellbeing through offering training about mental health and resilience, which three-fifths (60 per cent) of the workforce requested. Similarly desired were stress reduction workshops (54 per cent).

Adrian Smith continued, discussing the research as a whole:

The more that staff communicate, the better they work together  – accomplishing goals, developing skills, and giving and receiving feedback.

While furlough has changed the purpose of the check-in somewhat, the importance of keeping the lines of communication open remains undiminished.  While check-ins should appear relatively casual to employees, even in these strange times, managers need to follow a loose structure to ensure the time is used wisely, including preparation and taking notes.

*Ranstad surveyed 7752 furloughed workers for these results in April 2021, over the course of 2.5 weeks.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.