New research shows that just under a third of furloughed workers (31 per cent) report feeling forgotten by their employers over the last 15 months. 

According to new research by Westfield Health, almost a third of workers that have been placed on furlough over the past year feel forgotten by their boss.

Of this group, over a quarter (26 per cent) feel unhappy with their employer’s plans linked to returning to work. This was significantly higher than staff who are not on furlough (16 per cent).

The study attributes this to furloughed workers being the most likely to be offered reduced working hours (30 per cent) upon their return – which could be due to the Government’s guidelines of initiating a phased return.

However, other groups also did not feel entirely comfortable at the prospect of returning to work.

Overall, over half of staff (51 per cent) stated they feel anxious about the return to the office. This was largely fuelled by a lack of communication, on their employer’s part, about plans for a return to the office or workplace.

When asked what initiatives would best support their wellbeing, workers were most likely to desire flexible ways of working with a fifth wanting this (19 per cent).

Other measures included mental health assistance (15 per cent) and policies which support wellbeing (11 per cent).

The research also pointed to various sectors wanting different things from the future of work.

Those in government (46 per cent), financial services (44 per cent) and manufacturing and construction (41 per cent) stated flexible working would make returning to the office easier.

However, those in arts, culture and leisure as well as retail (33 per cent) preferred mental health support (44 per cent).

This study also supported previous findings that employees who had been travelling to the workplace during the pandemic were less likely to be offered different ways of working.

Dave Capper, CEO of Westfield Health, warned that the decision to delay the lifting of lockdown restrictions could have a significant impact on mental health:

This latest last-minute change to reopening will yet again take its toll on the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of employees. While controlling the virus is a priority, we can’t keep neglecting the bigger mental health impact that is so crucial to the recovery of UK businesses.

We know that more than half of all employees are anxious about a return to the office already, with a fifth attributing this anxiety to a lack of communication about plans for a return to the workplace. Businesses are trapped between wanting to move forward but having to react to government guidance, pivoting at the 11th hour into more confusion, uncertainty and anxiety for their employees.

However, Mr. Capper continued to express the importance of looking after the wellbeing of staff:

This research has shown that getting teams to work to the best of their ability is dictated by how, where, and when they work, and that different companies in different sectors are feeling their way through what might work for their teams, whilst keeping one eye on changing government guidelines.

It has been – and continues to be – a minefield for companies to react and adapt. The last year has shown how important wellbeing is to a business: it is no longer a nice to have, but a business imperative.


*To obtain these results, Westfield Health surveyed 1,500 UK employees.