The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a tremendous impact on the way we live our lives, manage our work, and operate our businesses. As a result, many organizations began to furlough employees back in March 2020. This tactic was created to allow businesses to place employees on a temporary leave of absence from work, with the aim of bringing furloughed staff back into the business when possible.
The ability to place staff on furloughed leave is providing much-needed financial relief for businesses across the world and is protecting thousands of jobs from outright elimination. However, there are many considerations that employers need to be mindful of when managing their furloughed staff.
Here are our top tips for keeping furloughed staff engaged:
Ensure Additional Support is Available
Naturally, there is a strong focus on the physical and mental well-being of employees. However, it is crucial to recognize that the needs of furloughed employees are likely to differ from their colleagues who remain working.
Of course, everyone is unique, and will be affected differently by the challenges that the COVID-19 health emergency presents, but employers must ensure the safety of all employees. This means additional support for managing mental health, internal communications around support, keeping abreast of individuals’ personal circumstances, and ultimately ensuring employees remain engaged with the business to facilitate a smooth transition back into work when the time is right.
Recognize the Longer-Term Impacts of This Arrangement
How furloughed employees are treated and supported now will form the foundations for your reintegration strategy and may affect your future hiring campaigns. If employees have a bad experience with your company during furlough leave, then it may mean they choose to leave when the opportunity arises. Employees who are happy and proud of the way their organization handles challenging situations will express this with those close to them and could be more likely to demonstrate high levels of loyalty to their employer.
Be Empathetic and Understanding of Personal Circumstances
For managers, empathy is a crucial attribute. People experience stress at the best of times and are now also navigating concerns about their health, the safety of their friends and family, isolation, and in some cases, financial strains.
For furloughed employees, they must navigate their everyday life stresses, the added uncertainty of the COVID crisis, and their very different position to that of many of their colleagues. It is crucial that all emotions are acknowledged so that every employee knows they are valued. Feelings of anger, mistrust, isolation, and anxiety could all arise, so listen, empathize, and refer them to expert resources where appropriate.
Facilitate Clear and Open Communication Channels to Boost Engagement
Furloughed individuals, while not allowed to perform any work for their employer, are still employees. This means they are still part of the team and it is important that they still feel that this is the case. During this period of increased uncertainty, engaging with your furloughed employees should be a top priority to ensure they feel valued and not forgotten. If you are not investing in engagement, then you run the risk of losing your talent.
When the furlough period comes to an end (or hopefully before), the aim is to get workers back into the business. When they return, you want to ensure they are motivated in their role so they can hit the ground running. Maintaining communication is key here.
Line managers should be leading the way when it comes to ensuring clear lines of communication are established and maintained. The relationship between employees and their manager plays an ever more important role. There needs to be a high level of trust for individuals to be open and honest with their feelings about their personal situation. If this is not the case, there may be a need to identify a mentor or manager in the business who would be more able to provide this support.
Create Platforms for Ongoing Connections with the Team
Line managers should be encouraged to keep in touch with, and offer additional support to, furloughed staff based on conversations. To facilitate this, we would advise the following points of contact:
- Keep regular one-to-one catch ups on your calendars. These should be as frequent as preferred by the employee, but it is a good opportunity for managers to simply catch up with their reports and check in on their mental and physical well-being.
- Encourage furloughed staff to keep an eye on internal business comms. This should be facilitated by managers whereby they notify their teams whenever there are key updates available.
- Invite all employees to join social team catch ups. These might be regularly scheduled with a group of employees to have an informal chat or impromptu calls; ensure furloughed employees are invited to join in.
- Organize and encourage attendance to virtual activities such as quizzes, book clubs or other non-work-related activities.
- Training should be encouraged while on furlough. This might be a comprehensive development plan tailored to the individual, internal training modules to support processes, or online courses identified by the manager as key for future growth.
It is important to provide some certainty and security to furloughed employees wherever possible. While you should never make promises that may not be able to be kept, simply staying in touch and keeping individuals in the loop can make all the difference.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you, your team, or your business at this time, please do not hesitate to get in touch for a confidential, non-obligatory discussion.