Although some of the UK workforce has gone back to work, for many, that is still not the case, as organisations continue to make good use of the furloughing scheme until the end of October, leaving thousands of employees continuing to adjust to a very different working week.
Even though the aim has always been to engage workers, a much harder task being done so remotely, how do we do the same for those who are furloughed? And why is this so important?
First and foremost, the key is that they feel still feel inclusive, valued and an integral part of the business despite their current status. The worst outcome is that employees feel ‘forgotten about’, so how do we ensure this does not happen?
Communication is key. According to LinkedIn Insights, 58% of professionals say they feel more supported working from home when their leaders provide regular communication, and this should also be the case for employees on furlough. Although they are not required to check their inboxes, many HR teams have been using dedicated communication channels for furloughed staff such as a company app, video, or through an out of hours biweekly team activity. Consider, where is the best place for them to consume content during this time to maintain the relationship through strategized engagement and good company culture.
Although difficult at the start of this scheme as government guidance itself lacked clarity, try to make it clear to employees what is and isn’t expected from them during this time. In a Censuswide study, 40% of employees did not receive any guidance on what they should and shouldn't do while on furlough, leaving many feeling anxious about the situation. Use those dedicated communication channels to ensure they have all the materials and resources needed to provide them with this clarity and be transparent and honest about the progression of the business.
Everyone’s mental health has been challenged during this time, so offering mental health support is crucial to ensuring the wellbeing of staff members, especially those who are furloughed, as being furloughed itself is a worrying matter for employees. Many will experience increased anxiety and related stress due to financial concerns and uncertainty around their future. Have support available internally and externally whether that’s through regular check in’s, using external resources, setting a weekly fitness challenge, doubling up staff members or providing leaders with the necessary training to ensure they can provide the right care. If you are concerned about the wellbeing of employees, encourage them to take the mood self-assessment test provided by the NHS to make them aware of the affects the current situation may be having on them - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mood-self-assessment.
Utilise this time to support your furloughed employees personal and professional growth while away from working constraints. Keep them pro-active by helping them use the opportunity to learn and develop. Take the time to discuss their future and where you would like to see them progress with a plan on how you will get them there. This provides employees with peace of mind knowing their contributions are valued by wanting to see them further succeed.
It is also important to strategise a return plan as furloughed employees resume their day to day responsibilities. With extensive time out of the role for some, it may not be suitable for the wellbeing of employees to expect them to jump straight back into work. This may be too soon and carry unwanted pressure, especially if the requirements of the business have changed while they have been absent. Communicate with employees what they believe is the best course of action for them, some may be more than willing to carry on from where they left off, but do not assume all will. You want to ensure a smooth transition for employees returning to the workplace.
If you require support or advice on any area, please feel free to contact Rikin Suchak directly on 0115 786 0443 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.