4 min read
In the course of the pandemic, businesses everywhere have been forced to make difficult decisions to ensure their future. While we’ve seen many close their doors either permanently or temporarily, others have used the support from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (aka the Furlough Scheme) to preserve jobs and cash flow.
According to a business survey by the ONS conducted between 6 April and 19 April, 28% of the UK workforce has been furloughed by their employers, of which the accommodation and food services and entertainment industries saw the highest proportion, with 73% and 70% of its workforce respectively being furloughed.
While the Furlough scheme is running until the end of October (though we know it will be adjusted from August onwards) and is helping 7.5m UK employees be retained by their employers, it comes with its own set of challenges.
These are even more apparent when looking at how to balance a mix of employees, some of whom are working from home, some of which may be furloughed and others who are frontline, essential workers.
We’ve seen many of our clients seeking out information and guidance when it comes to balancing how to communicate and engage furloughed vs. non-furloughed employees.
Though every organisation is different, the most common theme we’ve heard is making sure that employee communication is key in your business. When communicating, keep in mind:
It’s important to remain consistent in your message to employees to core areas such as office openings or closures, new HR policies or any governmental changes that affect the business.
While the message is the same, the impact on the employees is what differs, so make sure you are answering questions to which each group will be asking.
Using tools like an internal communications platform that can segment communications so you can have tailored messages for your non-furlough employees vs. your furloughed staff can help minimise the number of messages and make sure the most relevant information is going to the right group. In many scenarios, you’ll have three groups to communicate with: Those that have never been furloughed, those that are returning or have just returned, and those still on furlough.
Think of HR as the ultimate connector among all the different groups in your business. You are the one (or team, however many of you there might be) that can help connect your employees to one another, and just because they aren’t working side-by-side doesn’t mean connections should fade away.
Make both groups as visible as possible – if a furloughed employee has an anniversary coming up, make sure to celebrate it with a dedicated post or peer-to-peer eCard. Likewise, for your non-furloughed staff that are going above and beyond, make sure that they feel heard and valued through channels for open feedback. Something as simple as a pulse survey can assess the morale of all your workers, no matter where they’re located or what they are currently working on.
Whilst furloughed employees are not allowed to undertake work whilst on furlough, you can still ensure they are aware of what you are doing to support them when they return to work or to their normal work location. They’re still a big part of your team, and the more you make them feel that way, the more supported they’ll feel throughout a difficult time.
No two employees have the exact same issues, so when it comes to support you must think broadly. Your furloughed employees may be worried about job security and may be more concerned about their financially wellbeing during COVID-19 in the interim, while your non-furloughed staff may be suffering from burnout and a higher-than-usual workload.
Think about how you can best support furloughed employees to ease their worries – can you share any reopening plans, so they know they have a job to come back to? Share what you can, when you can, and maintain lines of open and honest communications.
To further support, think about what you can do now to help your teams, as every bit of help will be well received.
Wellbeing is key for all, but in today’s uncertain times, think about how to support the individual and collective challenges in your organisation. Give employees plenty of access and support on mental wellbeing, whether that’s expert articles and how-to videos on mindfulness or a message of encouragement and (for your non-furloughed employees) support from the Leadership Team to unplug and take a break from screen time.
When it comes to your organisation, your ongoing support for employees is critical during uncertain times, no matter which group your people fall under. I’m happy to talk more with you on this topic if you find it challenging – just pop me a message on LinkedIn.
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