Extended furlough: five ways to keep people on top of the situation

Five ways to keep people on top of the situation is also available as a podcast. You can listen to it here:

The Chancellor’s announcement that furlough is to be extended until October, came as a welcome surprise to many. The furlough scheme, whereby the government will cover 80% of monthly wages up to £2500, is already benefiting one million businesses and seven and a half million workers in the UK.

Whilst businesses and many workers will welcome this extension, for many employees who are now approaching the completion of eight weeks of enforced isolation at home, the news that they are, in some cases, likely to be there a whole lot longer is probably far less appreciated. In many cases, people have been thinking in the short term in order to stay positive, though now the thought of another two, three or, perhaps even, four months of being furloughed at home could pose a serious threat to wellbeing, morale and engagement. So, what can be done?

  1. Consult:
  • Update your understanding of people’s individual circumstances. These will differ vastly, and it makes sense to understand the challenges and logistics of each and every one so you can plan the best possible return to work arrangements for them. And, in the meantime, work out how best to ramp up your support for them through isolation.
  • Critically, also check in on the wellbeing of your people since some will be coping better than others. Look out for Wellbee coming soon to take the hard work out of diagnostics, recommendations and support.
  • Under the new furlough announcement part-time working is allowed and so you’ll need to understand what people can and cannot commit to without facing further stress and hardship.
  • And think about how you’ll ‘share’ out this work by rotating opportunities.
  • Overall, listen and respond in a way that’s authentic and true to your values; do what’s right for your business and the people within it.
  1. Communicate:
  • Rather than sending emails which can be stressful and could also drag people into responding to other work stuff when they’re furloughed, which is not permitted, make sure there’s a place people can go to find out updates and other information as and when they need it.
  • The easiest way to do this is through your comms app or a company Facebook page. Failing that, setting up a helpline may have to suffice.
  • Set up regular, though optional, check-ins so that people can continue to connect with the business and their colleagues.
  • There’s some good general information about being furloughed here.
  1. Coach + develop:
  • Now’s the time to bring L+D people out of furlough if at all possible and set them to work producing learning and much needed ‘together time’, via webinars for example, to get everyone up to speed ahead of their return, be it sooner or later. You could create a real buzz and have a lot of fun with this to re-engage as well as re-educate people. Those who are thinking ahead will appreciate that the benefits of this will far outweigh the salary savings.
  • Take the opportunity now to build trust through enhancing relationships, showing good judgement and being consistent. Here’s a useful article on these three elements of trust from Harvard Business School.
  • If your people are remaining in furlough, make sure they have access to non-mandatory volunteering options and are supported to take them up. This will provide much needed purpose and enable people to feel they are making a contribution as well as experiencing some variety and feel-good factor. There are some volunteering suggestions here or Google volunteering related to your sector.
  1. Re-entry
  • You’ll already be working on the logistics of social distancing at work and here, for example, is some great, practical advice for hospitality businesses from the lovely people at Navitas.
  • However, it’s also so important to think about the human side since people are unlikely to be returning to ‘work-life as they know it’; things will have changed. Do what you can to think this through and prepare people to deal with the changes in a well-informed and optimistic way.
  • In addition to our recent advice for leaders on how to get fighting fit, plan out how your people will return, how work will be shared out, how rotas will work and so on.
  • It’s time to think practically so you can provide a well-reasoned and clear, though flexible, plan for everyone. As an example, HR should be thinking about how to ‘re-onboard’ people.
  1. Engagement:
  • This is a critical time to think about engaging your people – our recent advice on that can be found here.
  • Also remember that people may be feeling less motivated and therefore likely to be less productive when they return, they might even have taken this time to reconsider their priorities and recalibrate their goals and aspirations. They may have even thought about moving on.
  • Have one to ones as soon as you can to understand how people feel and how you can help support their future goals. This is, of course easier to facilitate with the right software in place (e.g. Talent Toolbox). As with learning and development, you can do their reviews under furlough as it doesn’t involve your employee ‘undertaking work that makes money for your organisation or provides services for your organisation’.

Overall, take a people-centric, pragmatic approach and communicate the hell out of the situation. Good luck…

2020-05-21T13:46:40+01:00 May 13th, 2020|