During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers were placed on furlough, leading to many feeling isolated and redundant. It is an overwhelming time, filled with uncertainties, and the impact of being out of work can affect your employees' mental wellbeing.
Combating challenges faced by furloughed employees can be daunting but not impossible. It is vital to note that furlough is a temporary measure and not intended to be long-term. So, furlough and redundancy plans for HR's are needed to be put in place to ensure that they support their employees during this period.
Below we go through the importance of supporting your employees, how to navigate through uncertain times, and combating the possible challenges, you may face.
According to research done by SimplyHealth and the CIPD, 60% of organizations reported an increase in common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, among employees in the past year. The CIPD predicted that it would only increase during the pandemic.
Redundancy during Furlough can be extraordinarily daunting and stressful for employees. As such, it is crucial to help them as much as possible. Employees need to know that they are still valued and an essential part of the company.
Supporting employees on furlough helps them to feel as if they are not alone. It also allows them to feel still like they are a part of the company. The health and well-being of your employees should be the number one priority as an employer.
Supporting your employees comes with many challenges as they navigate through times of uncertainty. It can become easy to make promises too quickly, but you must ensure that they feel supported during this time.
Remember, they will feel scared and isolated - especially if they have been with the company for a while.
You must be open and transparent with your employees every step of the way. It would be best if you told them why you had to decide and why they were selected for furlough. This communication will prevent the spread of misinformation, causing more concern and ensuring that your employees know what is going on.
For some employees, being placed on furlough means uncertainty about their financial future. Employers should tend to these concerns and reassure their staff that they intend for these measures to be temporary and that their contribution to the business is still valuable.
Furloughed employees still have access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) put in place. EAPs assist with financial wellbeing and provide counseling eap services, which is very useful for furloughed employees.
EAPs are an excellent way to encourage your employees and keep them motivated during uncertain times.
Furloughed employees are still permitted to have training provided to them. With courses moving to online and furloughed employees having more time on their hands, it might help develop new skills.
If you provide training for employees who are still working, extending the invite to furloughed employees is a good idea.
Some organizations, like Albertsons Companies, have even partnered with other major companies to offer their furloughed employees part-time jobs.
While employees are on furlough, they will have more time on their hands. It’s a great idea to encourage them to volunteer at a local charity or shelter. Not only will this help the organization, but it could positively impact the employee's mental wellbeing.
Studies have shown that volunteering can help with employees' mental health issues and improves one’s outlook on life. During uncertain times, it is good to inspire your employees to help others. Compared to people who do not volunteer, people who do have been more satisfied with their lives.
Furlough employees may feel isolated and disconnected, so you must keep them updated on the company and how it’s doing. It is also useful to keep them updated on when you believe they can return to work.
Schedule catch-up calls with your employees and regular well-being checks. It will make them feel like they are still part of the company, not to feel left behind or forgotten about.
Employees who feel supported by their employer develop a stronger relationship and trust with them. You must put your employees at the center of how you do business, as these are usually the businesses that thrive.
Building trust does not mean not making difficult decisions like avoiding redundancies, but rather that you communicate this with your employees. Employees appreciate it when their employer is upfront with them about the business, even if it may be about huge issues.
Furlough has different repercussions for individual employees. You must understand who is being affected and in what ways you can support them.
As mentioned before, EAPs are a useful way to ensure that support is put in place. Encourage your employees to attend counseling sessions and list the problems they face. If they are struggling with their social wellbeing, like feeling isolated, ask them how they would like to be included.
Getting their feedback and insights is one of the best ways to determine how you can support them.
Placing employees on furlough comes with many challenges. Here are some ways to make sure that you do your best to support your employees despite the difficulties.
It is often tricky to show job security during times of uncertainty. But, it is vital to show your employees that you are trying to keep people employed.
According to research company Populous Group’s COVID19 tracker, 72% of employees who are furloughed, on reduced hours, or on temporary leave are worried about their future job security. A fifth of employees within the 35-44-year-old age bracket state they are “extremely worried” about job security.
It is crucial to highlight all the positives that have come from the furlough scheme. For example, maybe your business was able to avoid redundancies by participating in the furlough scheme. Your employees may not see this unless you tell them.
Remind employees that it is a temporary solution and that, in time, they will be able to return to work. Although, don't be too quick to make promises that you feel you may not be able to keep.
The current situation will not last forever, so it’s a good idea to plan for when furloughed employees return to work. Setting up a one-to-one session where you discuss returning to work will help ease them back into the workplace environment.
Your aim should be to make their first few days at the office more comfortable. Ask them how they feel and reassure them about getting back to speed with their role.
For many employees, work provides a structure to their daily lives. They have a day-to-day routine, which includes going to the office. If that is out of the equation, then they might face some challenges with productivity and purpose.
Employees need to be encouraged to find structure in their furloughed state. Lifestyle blogger Rhianna Olivia provides some tips on how to stay productive while on furlough. She emphasizes that furloughed employees should have a weekly and daily routine so that they don't feel like they’re taking three steps backward.
During uncertain times, mental health often takes a backseat. However, it is critical that you make mental health a priority and combat any feelings of demotivation, inadequacy, and low self-worth.
A useful way to keep your employees motivated is to encourage them to create SMART goals for themselves. SMART stands for specific, manageable, achievable, realistic, time-bound goals. With SMART goals, they will have a structured way to keep motivated and ensure that they work on their self-development.
Employees may have anxieties about returning to work, some even suffering from "furlough fever." So, you need to ensure that a return to work is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
Remember, employees have been out of their usual routine for some time. As such, easing them into things slowly is important. It’s all about making sure that your employees are comfortable and that they are ready to get back to work.
With the virus still in circulation, you must ensure that your employees also feel safe returning to work. According to a YouGov survey, 4 in 10 people are concerned about returning to work under COVID-19. So, make sure that you have all the proper safety procedures in place so that your employees can feel more comfortable and secure in the workplace.
Although furlough and redundancy breed uncertainty and feelings of isolation, there are multiple ways to combat these problems and ensure that your employees always feel supported.
When things are unknown, you must keep communication channels open with your employees and encourage them in small ways. The millions of workers who are on furlough all face unique challenges in their day-to-day lives. Please take the opportunity to encourage yours to stay afloat until they can return to work.
Empuls by Xoxoday is an all-in-one employee engagement platform that can help you keep in touch with your employees and support their well-being during this difficult time.