Keeping in touch with furloughed employees: we’re all in this together.

Justin Byrne

Furloughed Employees

We’re all learning right now. I can honestly say, as a business owner for almost 20 years, I for one am facing challenges I’ve never come across before. We all are.

But, a phrase I love has never seemed more relevant:

“All great change is preceded by chaos.”

Whether you’re currently dealing with the transition to home-working, or trying to understand the meaning of ‘furloughing’ staff and what it means for both them and yourself, remember: we’re all in this together.

As a recruitment partner, we don’t just help businesses find their next top hires – a large part of what we do involves onboarding, strategizing and, most importantly, employee engagement. Employee engagement was already trending in 2020, before all the madness of Covid-19 ensued, but now couldn’t be more relevant with the UK’s evolving support schemes coming into play.

So what does it mean to furlough staff? A term which until now has largely been recognised only over in the States, it’s becoming commonplace here on home-ground: by definition, to furlough is to lay off temporarily.

The idea is to avoid mass nationwide redundancies, thus allowing businesses to keep hold of their employees, allowing their employees to continue receiving a salary (up to 80% of it, anyway) and basically keeping people on the payroll. In Rishi’s words, truly unprecedented measures for these unprecedented times.

It’s a tough choice to make, but one which can benefit both you and employee in the long term. However, whilst we know that furloughed staff are unable to work for your business, it’s important that you let them understand that this IS temporary. And, as such, it’s crucial to stay in touch during these challenging times. Keep your employees engaged now, and let them know that there’s an end in sight.

Here are my top tips for engaging furloughed employees throughout the Covid-19 pandemic:

Personal communication.

Communication is key at the best of times, let alone during a crisis such as this. Make it personal – group or mass emails are great, but you should be touching base with your workforce individually at least a couple of times a week too. And use their preferred method; where some love a phone call, to hear another voice, others may be more comfortable chatting via WhatsApp or Slack instead. Remember that this is a stressful time for everyone, work aside; taking time to check in and make sure your staff are coping is a sure-fire way to let them know that you’re thinking of them and that their well-being matters to you. Use this time to talk about plans, goals and development ideas for the future.

Time for learning.

Whilst they can’t be working whilst furloughed, to comply with the associated laws, there’s no reason your employees can’t be using their brains and learning during this time. Supply your staff with resources to keep them engaged and making the most of this unexpected free time; whether it’s as simple of a self-help book, some industry-based reading to do online or even reiterating company processes and policies, there’s no reason not to keep your staff busy whilst they’re unable to go about their day job. In isolation for who knows how long, let’s be frank: it’s going to get boring. Learning of any kind is going to provide a welcome break to Netflix for at least a while.

Smells like team spirit!

Whilst it’s important for you, the business leader, to stay in touch with staff, there’s no harm in having everyone keep in touch across the team too! Arrange regular video calls, whether it’s for ‘isolation beers’ on a Friday at 5pm or just a virtual get-together to talk through how everyone’s feeling; keeping that team spirit alive will boost morale and have everyone excited to get back into the office to see their favourite work buddy.

There’s no denying that these are troubling times; no one knows exactly what’s happening, or is going to, or for how long, so maintaining motivation across your teams and upholding stellar communication is key to getting through this.

Employee engagement should be at the forefront, furloughed or no. Keep this in mind, and start looking forward to when we can all get back to ‘normal’ – whatever that’s going to look like!

As ever, sending well wishes from myself and from the whole of team Certus.