Engaging with Furlough Employees
Staying Engaged with your Furloughed Employees
Back in May, almost eight and a half million UK employees had been furloughed and in June this figure was over nine millionand will now continue above this figure into 2021. Whilst this has no doubt protected millions of businesses and jobs, it’s not without its challenges. This is an uncertain and distressing time for many employees, and it’s up to businesses to demonstrate that just because staff have been furloughed, they haven’t been forgotten, and are still valuable members of the team. This is even more important during the second lockdown with shorter days and without the benefit of the summer sunshine to boost the wellbeing of your team.
There have been some great initiatives we’ve seen to help keep teams engaged and positive during lockdown 1.0 but as this period draws on, it is easy to forget the challenges your team may face working from home.
We’ve put together some helpful tips and reminders for staying engaged with your furloughed employees during this time. Now more than ever, it’s vital to show your team how important they are, and keep them updated on the ongoing directions and priorities for your business. As well as looking out for the wellbeing of your staff, this will also make their return to work further down the line much easier and smoother.
When providing information, it can often be a bit of a balancing act to make sure you get all the facts across, without bombarding your staff with so many emails that they are actively put off from engaging. This is an incredibly overwhelming time, and information overload is not the answer.
To counter this, you could add a dedicated page for furloughed employees on your company’s intranet. This page can include as much or as little information as you want – anything which you think your employees will benefit from. Most importantly, it gives them the freedom to update themselves at a time and pace that suits them.
For example, information could include:
- Updates and explanations of furlough legislation: This will be especially useful as legislation changes over the coming months, and clearly demonstrates how you as a company are planning to respond to this
- Training hub or portal: Furloughed employees can still undertake training, but more on that later in the article
- Business news and updates: With many businesses making changes to the way they work in response to the pandemic, this will help your staff to keep abreast of these changes, even while they’re not working
- Health and wellbeing tips: This can be a very lonely and stressful time for staff (both furloughed and non-furloughed); mental and physical health has never been more important.
As we mentioned, whilst furloughed employees cannot undertake any work, they can still complete training. Many furloughed employees may be understandably concerned about what the future holds, but by providing training you are demonstrating your commitment to their future career and their successful return to work. It’s also a great way to use this time productively – how often has training had to be delayed or put on hold simply because members of your team have been too busy?
Take the time to talk to your employees about their career development goals and put together a training plan for them. This could either be via your company’s internal learning platform, or remote courses, if your budget allows. By having a plan in place, this additionally provides your furloughed employees with a sense of motivation, purpose and achievement, which has proven to be positive for mental health.
With everyone working remotely, many companies have upped the ante on their communication channels, to keep everyone feeling connected. The same goes for furloughed employees. Business update emails will help staff to feel included in the strategic direction and priorities for your organisation. This is especially important as many businesses have had to drastically change direction in response to the global pandemic. The last thing you want is for your furloughed employees to feel like they are returning to work at a completely different company.
It’s just as important for your staff to be able to communicate with you. Most companies and individuals are experiencing furlough for the first time, and with the best will in the world, there are bound to be teething problems. Collecting surveys from your furloughed employees not only keeps them engaged and shows you value their feedback, but it also means you can continuously improve your practices and processes.
Keeping in contact
Whether furloughed or not, most members of your team will be feeling at least a little isolated, and lacking in a support network. Let your furloughed employees know that the door for a catchup is always open, showing that they’re not alone and they haven’t been forgotten.
Of course, every individual will need a different approach, so keep your communication channels varied. Some employees may benefit from a weekly catchup call (possibly in the same way that you catch up with the rest of your team). Some may just need to know that they can email you whenever they need. Likewise, some may not see you as their manager as the person they can turn to. In this case, it might be worth delegating to someone in your team as the point of contact. The important thing is that everyone always has someone they can turn to or talk to. After all, for many people, their team are not just colleagues, but friends.
And finally, speaking of friends, virtual socials are a great way to integrate furloughed staff. The social part of work has had to dramatically adapt to remote working, but we’ve already seen companies get very creative with this. Ranging from Friday drinks to pub quizzes to musical bingo, these are a great way to keep the team spirit alive, and an even better way to keep your furloughed employees engaged not just on a business level, but on a social level.
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