Re-engaging with and reintroducing furloughed employees
During this global pandemic approximately 7.5 million employees have been furloughed (more than 1 in 5 of the UK’s workforce) and, for many, this has been for a significant period of time. You may have even furloughed some of your own employees.
For employees that have been furloughed, the challenges of returning to work go beyond struggling to remember passwords, trawling through hundreds of emails to identify the three that are of importance and taking a couple of days to get back into ‘work mode’. It’s not the same as if they have been on holiday for 2 weeks!
For many employees, there will be apprehension around returning to the workplace, a potential loss of confidence in their capabilities, feeling ‘out of the loop’ and adapting back to ‘working life’ as well as possible concerns around working from home or returning to the workplace with child care commitments. In addition to this, some employees may be feeling resentful at being furloughed whilst others may be experiencing guilt that colleagues worked whilst they did not. Many will also be fearful of the risk of redundancy.
For businesses to successfully survive this current crisis, great care should be taken when reintroducing furloughed employees back into the workplace, whether remotely or physically coming back to their place of work. Taking an approach similar to that taken when employees return from a long absence e.g. maternity/paternity leave, long term illness or sabbatical. Key areas to consider are:
Giving sufficient time for the individual to settle in
It takes on average 3 months for a new joiner to start to feel settled within their new role and whilst it is unlikely to take this long for returning furloughed employees, businesses (and managers) should be prepared for individuals to take a number of weeks to become fully productive and comfortable in their role. To ease the transition ensure your managers:
Equip your managers with the tools to support their teams
Managers will be key to successfully reintroducing furloughed employees at all levels of your business. Ensuring managers have access to the right information (from Employee Assistance Programmes to business/department objectives), the right technology to manage teams remotely as well as ensuring they understand flexible working options and have access to HR advice when needed is vital in both supporting their needs and helping them support the needs of their teams.
Giving reassurance that their safety and wellbeing are a top priority
A high number of employees will be apprehensive about returning to the workplace and will need reassurance that their safety and wellbeing is your top priority. The same applies to individuals working from home. Ensure you have in place:
Creating a new sense of belonging
Re-engaging employees with the business vision, strategy and values as well as helping them re-establish working relationships help create a feeling of belonging that in turn positively impacts commitment and performance.
Careful consideration of internal communication channels to ensure accessibility as well as content that encourages a sense of belonging is just as important as managers enabling employees to re-establish working relationships with colleagues not only within their immediate team but also across the business.
Providing opportunities to feedback to business leaders on how employees are feeling as well as ensuring those identified as high potentials/future leaders in decision making all create a sense of belonging.
Considering changes to working hours and/or practices
Many employees who have been furloughed have established new routines that may not reflect traditional working hours and businesses may need to adapt to stay successful. From changing working hours, work locations as well as moving from a time based/presentism mindset to an outcome based approach are all becoming a reality that businesses face. Things businesses could consider include:
The effort placed in ensuring furloughed staff return to an environment that gives them time to re-adjust, provides adequate support, keeps them safe and creates a sense of belonging will impact a business’s bottom line and both business leaders and managers are essential in ensuring success.
Should you need further guidance or support please get in touch. We are here to help.