Supporting your staff during furlough

It wasn’t how we initially envisaged 2020 playing out for our companies and for many the impact of this pandemic has come as a complete shock. As country after country goes into coronavirus lockdown, most industries have ground to a sudden halt.

While cities and states across the world implement business closures and “shelter in place” mandates for coronavirus, SMEs are fighting to stay afloat, every company is looking at their finances and asking two questions – How long can we survive this and where can we cut costs?

To help businesses through the tough times ahead, the Government threw out the lifeline in the form of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Allowing employers to “furlough” their staff in return for 80% of people’s wages.

Until a few weeks ago most had never heard of the term. Now, major employers around the world have responded to this crisis by placing their staff on furlough – that is, unpaid leave – rather than laying them off completely. In both cases, workers are hit by a sudden loss of income; the difference is that furloughed staff remain on their employer’s payroll, ready to start work again once the economy gets back into gear.

While most eyes are on the economy and financial bottom line, it is essential that the mental well-being of furloughed employees remains a top priority for businesses. Uncertainty, fears of job security, financial worries, loss of purpose and identity are all issues they will be facing.

We are here to list some ways how, as a manager, you can prioritise the well-being of your furloughed employees, from the initial conversation to maintaining ongoing support.


Always ensure open communication with all employees

When people are not informed and when organisations are not transparent, it is much easier to create blame, resentment and for false scenarios to spread. If possible be open and transparent with all your employees about the financial situation of the company and why you need to use the Government scheme. If you are reducing their salary, then tell them. Let them know what areas you are losing income in and what your monthly costs and revenues look like.

Let them know that furloughing staff is an essential move for the future of your business and how it is going to enable your company to be in a more secure position once the pandemic is over. It is your job to remove as much of that uncertainty as possible and you can do this by being prepared with a plan. Also, show respect by including them in your thinking and they will be more likely to respect your decisions in return.


Emphasise their value and highlight their contributions

Although it may seem clear that it is the pandemic that is causing your company to temporarily stand down staff, do not assume that employees won’t take it a little personally. Without their work, some people will question their self-worth, not only to your company, but also to society.

We all collect evidence to support our beliefs and if their belief is that they are not valued, they will quickly think of all the ways they could have done something wrong or why they are not as good as their colleagues.

Tell your staff why you value them, highlight things that they’ve done really well, remind them of their outstanding review and what projects you’re looking forward to working with them on in the future. You need to ensure that after you have finished talking, they have no doubts about how important they are to you.


If you have got their back, they will have yours

Throughout this process, do not forget that your employees are on your company’s team. They do not want to see their company struggle and if they feel valued, included, and informed, they will do their best to support your decisions.

When you are back in action, they will be ready to jump in with more loyalty and a renewed motivation. Just show openness, compassion, and inclusion. Do not shy away from tough conversations and be proactive in asking employees about their well being.

Remember, this is new for everyone and we are all figuring it out together. It is going to be messy and uncomfortable. In a couple of years, people will not recall the stress of furlough or what they even did during it, but they will remember how you, and your company, made them feel.


ABL Recruitment team