An abundance of employees and employers are normalising to the recent furlough measures. Here are a few ways in which employers can support their furloughed staff through this time.

Everyone you know – whether that’s on a professional or personal level – has been impacted. But for this instance, let’s focus on your furloughed employees. The furlough scheme was announced in March providing a lifeline for businesses and employees. Regardless of whether someone is on furlough or not, you need to ensure their wellbeing is being looked after and that their engagement with the organisation remains. Helping protect the wellbeing of your furloughed employees is not only part of your duty of care, but it will help maintain morale, protect your company culture and ultimately, reflect your organisation in the right light.

Furlough will be a journey of emotions and your employees will react to it in different ways. Whilst some may be grateful for the downtime (especially if they have kids to home-school or a relative to care for), others will be concerned about their finances, job security and may feel angry and anxious.

It’s important to stress that whilst they aren’t actively working, they are still a part of the company and may need additional support to get through these times. Be cautious though, don’t force anyone into keeping in touch or interacting in ways they don’t want to.

So, how can you help them?

1. Keep in touch with furloughed staff

Help furloughed staff feel that they are still part of something.

Employees will trust you and your organisation more if you continue to be open and transparent with them, even if this means sharing less positive information at times.

Communications regarding the state of the business, other measures you’re putting into place, what they can expect to come back to etc. will help prevent feelings of isolation from the business, maintain morale and boost productivity when normal operations resume. These transparent discussions will also have a positive impact on those employees who are still working.

How can you keep communications open and accessible?

  • Have the CEO speak to each furloughed employee if they can – obviously if you have 500 furloughed employees this may be a tad difficult but there are a number of platforms designed to communicate to larger groups such as Zoom and MS Teams.
  • Keep socialising happening. Try to prevent team rapport from suffering but let them know it’s entirely up to them if they want to stay in touch. There’s no pressure.
  • Perhaps now is the time to action the newsletter you’ve been thinking about. If you choose to email this, ask if they want it sent to their personal address or set up a dedicated webpage.
  • Have a think about what questions they’ll want answered and perhaps, you could create an open forum to publish them on. This doesn’t have to be from a ‘need to know’ basis either. What would they like to know? What’s going to help you team feel calmer about the future?

Furloughed employees won’t be working but there need to be open channels of communication so that they can tap in and out when they want – whether to keep in touch with the office gossip or to be in the loop with company news.

2. How about a new routine?

The routine of having a job provides consistency. Take this away and suddenly they may fret about what they’re to do every day. For those employees who have mental health concerns, this removal of normality and structure may affect them more than other furloughed employees. Taking time to help them formulate a new way of using this time productively will help promote a positive stance.

Distill a sense of belonging by creating options for growth. Take a look at their L&D plans. Is there a new skill or hobby they can develop? It may help to collate a list of resources which are free for them to use. Giving staff the opportunity to undertake some form of learning and development may help boost morale and spirits.

Benefits for your teams are still accessible. Remind them to make use of these, including any EAPs or counseling services they have access to.

Promoting socialising and support systems may help decrease feelings of loneliness as a result of isolation. You could look into establishing a buddy support system amongst your teams or schedule updates with them so they know they have dedicated time to talk about what’s going on.

3. Still a part of your team

  • Is their birthday due? Send them a message or e-card
  • Do you buy them lunch every now and then? Send them a take-away voucher or gift card to a delivery service such as HelloFresh, or a local restaurant for when lockdown measures are lifted.
  • Post a packet of plant seeds or indoor plant. They may not have access to a garden so giving them access to some kind of greenery will help brighten their day…hopefully.
  • Signpost them to volunteering opportunities
  • Charity or social event

Preparing for the future

Stand together and stay strong. This situation will come to an end and you need to ensure provisions are in place to support your employees now, and when they re-join the business.

How you treat your furloughed staff will help drive how motivated they are upon their return, as well as reflecting on you as an employer and the culture and brand ethics of your business.

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