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How to talk about the f-word: Supporting your staff through furlough

By Mark Staniland, Managing Director of Hays Ireland

If, as an employer, you are currently finding yourself in the position of having to furlough workers, you might understandably be anxious as to how you can support them, nervous as they will undoubtedly be at the situation.

It’s up to you to provide the guiding voice in your organisation, and to make sure those going on furlough know all the facts and feel supported through this uncertain time. Furlough is a government grant to help job retention so try to keep in mind that the intention is to positively support workers and it should be portrayed to your team in that manner too. Here are 5 steps to help you do this.

1. Be open and honest
When it comes to discussing the situation with the employee, bear in mind that the current remote working situation being faced by a large proportion of us may mean that you will have to tell them over video conference or by phone, so when you are doing so be sure to prepare in advance and ensure you have received clear guidance from HR and discussed any likely questions in advance of the call. .

2. Reassure and support
When talking to your workers, keep in mind that they will be nervous, even fearful that they’re being put on furlough. There may even be a degree of uncertainty as to what ‘furlough’ actually means for them. You can be the voice of reassurance. Assure them of the following:

  • The decision was not due to individual performance, but to external market factors as a result of the outbreak
  • 80% of their wages up to £2,500 will be covered by the government scheme, helping to alleviate their anxiety around finances
  • Above all, remind them that this is a temporary measure, designed to ensure that their job is secured for them once the lockdown has passed.

3. Keep them involved
If you’re trying to maintain a level of business as usual with your remote workforce, make sure to include your furloughed workers as much as possible with any business or team updates. Have regular check ins over the phone or video apps, just to see how they’re getting on and to update them as to any new announcements. Encourage them to check their work emails once in a while and invite them to join department roundups and summary meetings online.

Making this simple gesture will help on three fronts – firstly, it’ll remind furloughed workers that they remain a priority for you and your organisation, improving their sense of wellbeing. Secondly, it will allow workers to maintain their relationships and protect the office culture you’ve worked to build. Lastly, it will keep your furloughed workers up to speed with recent projects, and more able to re-integrate quickly once the crisis has passed.

 4. Be positive, suggest new activities
Your furloughed employees’ greatest adversary in the next few weeks is going to be boredom – and you should try to be as proactive as possible in coming up with suggestions to combat this. Try to be positive about your employees’ newly available time and suggest ways in which they can occupy themselves.

Ask them to focus on their physical and mental wellbeing. Exercise, good mental health practices and a creative outlet are all good for this. If possible, suggest that they use the time to upskill. Suggest new skills to them that may be beneficial to their forward career and to your organisation as a whole. Skills like web development and design can easily be picked up at home, and there are lots of free courses for coding, for example, or learning a foreign language.

5. Use your resources
Look to your employee benefits, what do you have available that may be useful to your workers at this time? Shopping voucher schemes? Access to financial and legal advice? A digital doctor app? Anything that may help support your workers, furloughed or otherwise, should be widely promoted and encouraged.

Any online training portals you have will be invaluable not only to furloughed workers, but anyone working at home or on the front line. Our free training portal Hays Thrive can be accessed anywhere for precisely this purpose, and as well as giving your staff access to wellbeing, remote working and health and safety courses, it includes a learning management system to create your own custom training programmes.

Find out more about Hays Thrive, and how it can help your furloughed and remote workers by visiting Hayslearning.co.uk.

About this author

Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant and has been in various roles, sectors and locations during his time at Hays. He is a Board member and in 2019 his responsibilities extended to Hays Ireland.

 

 

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