The coronavirus outbreak has had a huge financial impact on UK businesses. The government have implemented a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in order to help us retain staff during this difficult time. Those taking advantage of the Job Retention Scheme will be placing their employees on furlough. Whilst this may ease the financial strain on the organisation and, in most cases, the employees, what we need to think about is how those on furlough will adjust to such a significant change.
Talking to our own employees, our families, friends and business connections, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that staff may be worried about whether they will even have a job to return to. Being furloughed, when other staff aren’t, may cause them to feel undervalued and, some people have even mentioned feeling guilty that they aren’t working, especially if their colleagues are.
So, what can we do to support our staff during the furlough process?
We aren’t experts on mental health, so we have taken advice from places such as Mind, Mental-health.org and other mental wellbeing professionals. But the bottom line is no one has experienced this before and we don’t have all the answers but, we do have some very well thought out suggestions.
- It’s vital to be honest and open with staff. Never make false promises, this can lead to staff feeling let down. As Managers, always explain why you have made the decisions you have and offer insight into the real workings of a business.
- Get other members of management or even the business owners to reach out and fully explain why this decision has been made, people will appreciate the time and understand that this was not an easy decision and the primary goal is to retain jobs and protect the business.
- Set up regular wellbeing calls with furloughed staff. Whilst they can’t help you with work, you can talk to them about what they are doing with their time now and just check in to see how they are coping. Try and get teams together via video chat, groups of people who are furloughed could provide advice and suggestions on how to keep busy and active during this time.
- Encourage staff to think and talk about their mental wellbeing and try to check in with tips on how they are managing it during this time. We have recently written a blog with 7 tips to stay positive here
- Try and encourage staff to set personal goals during furlough. Talk about any skills they want to learn and new avenues for development they could look into. One thing we have tried to do with newer/less experienced staff is suggest ways to improve their skills via online training platforms and reading materials. This has had a fantastic response, and, who knows, when we are all back to work, employees may have learnt new, innovative skills to help drive their personal performance.
- Encourage staff to keep in contact with other colleagues who have been furloughed. Even if it’s just one other member of staff, this will help them develop deeper bonds and connections with members of the team they don’t necessarily have day to day contact with.
- Openly suggest things they could work on that, as their Manager, you may think they would benefit from or be good at, knowing them as individuals.This may not even be work related learning, it could be learning a language, writing a book or even starting a Youtube channel. Anything you think someone could use their abilities for and help them to feel good about themselves is clearly of benefit.
Communication and encouragement is massively important. If you liaise with your teams and try to establish a transparent line of conversation it will encourage them to express honestly their concerns and thoughts. Even if you can’t provide any support in the form of answers, you can provide support by listening and talking.