UK workers face confidence crisis returning to work

Almost two fifths (37%) of people returning to work after a year away experience a loss in confidence, creating more concerns for workplaces post-coronavirus and beyond.

Extended periods away from the workplace has a gendered impact on the population as women were found to be almost twice as likely (42%) to report a knock in their confidence at work than men (24%).

Reacclimatising to working life also proved challenging for 31% of women and 25% of men.

The findings published in a report by Vodafone urged employers to offer more support to their under-confident, returning workers – those potentially returning from furlough in the coming months, as well as employees that may have taken career breaks.

Doing so would not only benefit the people returning but business and the wider economy, said Helen Lamprell, general counsel and external affairs director at Vodafone UK.

“Supporting returners helps organisations bridge skills shortages and improve retention and diversity, while supporting those individuals and the wider economy,” she said.

“As workplaces continue to adapt and evolve, it is the responsibility of employers to support returners both while they are away and once they return.”

Challenges when returning to work:

Long-term furlough will take its toll on employees

Pandemic highlights need for gender inclusive parental leave

UK workers not learning enough new skills

As women are more likely to take a career break for caring responsibilities and find the cost of childcare more challenging than men (46% of women vs 23% of men) it is vital that they especially receive support.

Clare Corkish, HR director at Vodafone UK, told HR magazine: “This report draws attention to the need for support for those re-entering the workforce, especially women, given the disproportionate challenges faced by female returners. Whilst the findings of the new report are relevant for those returning to work post-COVID, they also reflect the feelings of people who have been absent from work or who have taken an extended career break.

"At Vodafone, we’re dedicated to be supporting people back into work throughout all phases of life, with schemes such as our ReConnect programme, which will continue to enable our employees to re-integrate into the workplace and refresh and enhance the skills they need to progress their career.”

The report called on government to allocate part of the of the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund to help returners develop their skills, and suggested employers be more open-minded about gaps on prospective employees' CVs.

Lost Connections: Supporting Returners into the workplace in 2021 and beyond is based on polling from Survation of more than 1,000 people who had returned to work after an absence of a year or more.