What have the last 6 months taught me?


4 things I learned on furlough…and 4 things I’ve learned coming back


It’s safe to say that it’s been a strange, uneasy time for everyone over these past six months or so. From a health point of view, it’s been hard on individuals; from an economic angle it’s been a difficult time for businesses, employers and employees. But while we learn how to live with Covid-19 (hopefully for the short term!) it means that many, including myself have come back to work from being on furlough for six months – which is a long time away!

So, here are four things I learned on furlough…and four things I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been back for.

4 things I’ve learned on furlough

  1. Mental Health is just as important as your physical health

I have always been an advocate for taking care of your mental health, but even I have to admit that it’s been extremely challenging getting through the past half year. Not only has it presented challenges none of us expected, such as staying homebound and avoiding touching your face when you are outside, but it’s been particularly difficult because of the lack of certainty we’ve all faced. When are we allowed to socialise and when are we going to get back to work are questions everyone has been asking. I’ve learned it’s really important during these not to neglect your mental health. I have used meditation to help calm my mind around the stresses of work, my top tip is that it can really help with coping through difficult times.

  1. Positivity helps

There has been a lot of negativity in the news and it’s really easy to get sucked into it, especially if you’re on furlough and you read lots of online articles throughout your day like me. Everyone has negative, unproductive days but when on furlough I found it really easy to begin stacking them up. I learned about forcing some positivity into my routine. My top tip is that I would actively seek out positive news articles and save them (most websites have bookmark for later options) for 10 minutes of reading towards the end of the day. End on a high!

  1. I missed work because I enjoy it

There are two elements to this, firstly I really enjoy my job. I love speaking to engaged businesses and ambitious people, helping both achieve further growth through good recruitment. Secondly, I missed the routine of waking up, commuting, and working. It turns out I enjoy structure to my days and weeks, learning that I enjoy using my time effectively. So, my top tip is to actively create structure into your day. I made sure I was waking up in good time and I prepared a to-do list the night before – nothing too hefty but I knew what I wanted to achieve each day when waking up.

  1. Embracing communications technology is going to make our lives easier

For all of the difficulties that we’ve coped with, I think it’s important to remember how much worse it could have been if we were living through a pandemic 20 years ago. Everyone has rightly been talking about and using Zoom or Teams but there is a plethora of other communications services that have made keeping contact with family, friends and work colleagues very accessible. I learned to appreciate communications technology much more than I had been, and given the advances we’ve made in 20 years, imagine how close we can be with each other another 20 years from now.

4 things I’ve learned coming back to work

  1. Embracing communications technology is going to make our lives easier

Ok, so I feel like I’m cheating a little here but it’s impossible to talk about communications technology without making mention to how it’s impacting work since returning from furlough. For obvious reasons we can’t meet clients now – a critical part to recruitment and many other jobs! But since we’re all well connected online, it’s a seamless transition to meeting online and keeping the good work up. I’ve learned just how much work is going to change in so many industries, for the better. My top tip is to invest time into learning the different software out there, work will evolve so we must too.

  1. Work can be overwhelming, but that’s ok

When I first got back, I had an absurd amount of emails waiting for me. I had hundreds of clients to speak to having not done so for months. And I had thousands of candidates to reconnect with too. All coupled with the fact that I haven’t been working for nearly half a year. It’s definitely daunting! But I learned that volume matters so embrace it! We rightly talk about quality of work and the relationships we build, that certainly matters more than ever before. But work is going to be tough for the majority of industries out there so the more volume of work we have, the more opportunities we have as well. Top tip – when you get back to work, throw yourself into it!

  1. A lot of emails don’t matter

All those emails I came back to? It confirmed something I’ve known for a while but never faced up to: most emails simply do not matter. It’s not to say I don’t read them, or that most emails are inefficient, or I don’t want to respond to them. But I learned that when I have lots of emails I don’t always prioritise my time well. Emails are a critical part of the puzzle for successful businesses, but regularly when it seems easier to email someone, it’s probably less effective than calling or often even texting your clients. Really this is a combination of the first two points, but my top tip is don’t get bogged down in emails. When building or starting client relationships, don’t leave it to just one more email.

  1. Flexible working, works

So often the private sector outpaces the public sector with news ways of working, the competitive state between businesses driving innovation. But the public sector has hands down been years ahead offering flexible working hours and home working options. When speaking to jobseekers I regularly hear that these are key elements with what they want in new careers (and this was before the pandemic). Work was slowly moving this way, but it’s clearly been fast tracked and that’s a good thing. I learned just how effective so many people can be when working from home or with irregular hours. My top tip here is twofold, firstly, where possible employers should be offering this long term to continue attracting staff and grow. And secondly, to effectively work from home you need a good set up – create proper space and buy a desk and a good chair. It’s no good trying to work from home if you don’t!

Ultimately, I’ve learned far more than just the above and I’m sure you have too. Get in touch if you want to discuss these tips further and I’m always keen to hear what you’ve been learning about, either on furlough or at work.

Freddie Bell - Principal Recruitment Consultant

Frb@mattpart.com - 0207 960 2583

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