Returning to Work: What a difference 119 days makes!

Written by Sam Barrett

You may have seen my blog a couple of weeks ago on the effects that prolonged leave could have on mental health and my own personal experiences of being on extended furlough.

Today I want to talk honestly about returning to work and how I’ve had to adapt to a very different way of working. In just my first week back I’ve experienced many positives but as is always the way in this industry, there have obviously been frustrations as well.

The week previous I’d started to create a whole bunch of targets that I wanted to achieve in that first week back. I wanted to really solidify this new position and prove I could add immediate value back to the business that has supported me for the past 3 years, especially through some tough times I’ve had; 17 weeks of furlough being one of them!

So Monday morning came around and I was full of beans! I jumped on that morning call and was buzzing to be fully back in the thick of it all. I had my week planned out in my mind and all my targets set. 

I had a heap of contacts to reach back out to that I’d been speaking with pre-Covid. 

I had a BD spreadsheet of hundreds of PE contacts I’d personally compiled over 8 months of intense research at the back end of last year and the beginning of this.

I had a heap of ideas for a new area of the business I was to help grow and another to prepare for launch. 

I had a load of new responsibilities and projects to get my teeth into and there were revenue opportunities on every platform I’d been keeping an eye on.

I was going to smash the life out of the week…….. 

By Monday late afternoon I’d crashed. And hard.

I was absolutely drained and the worst part was, I’d barely scratched the surface of what I’d planned to get done that day that was going to contribute to life-out-of-week-smashing!

What a disaster! 

But what was I really expecting? This was my first day back after over 4 months of not working. Not really focussing on anything. Not needing to contribute. Not needing to win. Forget the fact I was still trying to figure out how best to allocate my time across divisions to be working at maximum efficiency and adapt to having to BD in a completely different way. Purely from an energy perspective, I was mentally absolutely shot to pieces! 

If I’m being brutally honest with myself, there have always been times when I feel I’m a little bit of an energy sieve but I had massively underestimated the difference between being tired from doing nothing and being tired from doing lots. It took me by surprise.

But I’m not stupid and I like to think I learn pretty quickly. So for Tuesday I made sure I’d properly mapped out my day and gave myself some much more achievable and realistic targets, allowing a little bit of down time in between activities. 

I felt better in terms of how productive I was but something was missing.

I was still getting frustrated. I was agitated. But why? What was causing this nagging itch in my brain? 

Then that afternoon it occurred to me. I hadn’t had a single response to any email follow ups. Not one. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nil. 

Not one out of office nor even a polite “do one” from a single disgruntled CEO! People will rarely return my calls but things weren’t that bad in the market that could justify everyone completely ignoring my emails as well. But NOTHING was happening!

What the hell?

Turns out our IT guys were still  redirecting my inbox to my MD, who was on leave with no access to emails! 

Amazing! 

So when we got that fixed and the emails started to flood through, I immediately felt better and felt totally re-energised!

The rest of Tuesday through to Friday afternoon things were really good and ran without a hitch. Productivity was high and energy levels with it. I fell into a natural rhythm and began to get traction on things. By the end of business on Friday, I was feeling the pace, for sure, but I was satisfied with where I was at the end of my first week.

I was somewhat forced to re-evaluate my own performance measurements metrics early on as I found my feet and tried to understand what I could now deem as a good week. But with that in mind, I’d still consider it a success to have; taken a briefing and secured an interview on one new role; had nibbles on 2 new client leads; and caught up with an old client who is soon to be back in hiring mode and will want our help! 

I wouldn’t say I’ve smashed the life out of the week – but I did give it a bit of a thump!


Thank you to Sam for this blog on his experiences on returning to work after furlough. Sam works for Ad Idem Consulting, a client who we’ve been supporting through this difficult time. For more information on dealing with the wellness of furloughed workers or any other HR & People queries you might have, contact us today.