For most of us, the term ‘furloughed’ meant nothing only a couple of months ago. However since ‘Lock-down’, it’s probably become one of the most commonly used words across the business spectrum.
Furloughing was introduced to help businesses deal with the storm they had to endure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It meant those who were put on the job retention scheme were asked to down tools and stay home. Sounds quite straightforward.
However as the weeks have gone on, stories have become more frequent from individuals who have not had any form of contact via their employer. Some are expressing their frustration that despite the initial enthusiasm to entertain furloughed workers with weekly zoom quizzes or virtual drinks on a Friday afternoon; efforts to engage with those staff members have all but disappeared. But as we are beginning to slowly see some industries returning to the workplace and other organisations work through risk assessments in preparation for the return to office life, it is vital that those furloughed, are not forgotten about.
As an employer, I have made it part of my weekly routine to ensure my furloughed staff are not just contacted by me on a regular basis but that they communicate with each other and that I also to involve them in all aspects of business development or projects that are happening around them. They may feel helpless by not being able to do their job but seeing them interact and have a voice has been so vital not just for the future plans but also their well being. To feel valued, wanted, appreciated is so key right now, I want them to feel like part of the team because that’s exactly what they are. From a business perspective, once they return to the office I know just how hungry they will feel to achieve and deliver great result once again. Throughout all of this, one thing I haven’t done is lose sight of just how important my team are. I also know this is exactly how I would want to be treated in their position.
What can furloughed workers do:
Well, training is the big one. Those furloughed can still be involved in unpaid voluntary work too but I see the value in training as it keeps them focused so the learning curve upon their return is not so huge. Obviously, whether an employee wants to do this, will depend largely on their current home situation and headspace, so don’t be surprised if when you contact an employee, someone that you’ve had no communication with for weeks on end, that they don’t seem too enthused by your request to train. Chances are they may be more keen to find the exit door than spend time preparing to come back where they don’t feel valued. Personally, I am delighted to work with a team who have embraced the opportunity to train during their time off; and I am sure the level of contact I have kept with them has played a big factor in that positive outlook.