Furloughed but not Forgotten[Posted 09/06/2020 09:15]

Staff are ‘socially distanced’, make sure they are not NOT ‘socially detached’

At the time of writing we are completing over 10 weeks of isolation and social distancing. The Furlough Staff Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of October.

Lockdown is being gradually lifted whilst social distancing remains in place. Business owners are preparing to restart their businesses with much to do in terms of risk assessment and implementing safe working practices in their workplaces. For some, remote working is going to be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future.

At the beginning of this year, business owners were busy working on their plans and activities for the coming year. No one could predict that ‘furloughed’ would become such a significant term

The dramatic turn of events that has impacted the lives of everyone and brought the nations businesses to a virtual halt, has seen business owners and HR professionals quickly adapting, as best they can, to save their businesses and the jobs of their staff

The quick introduction of the Job Retention Scheme is an indicator of just how important the government saw the need to support businesses to retain as many staff as possible and to provide some sort of short-term income certainty.

However, as with all decisions and actions taken in this time of crisis there are some important not first thought of knock on effects.

Speaking to our HR business partners we have heard how they have completed more research and studying of everything that the term ‘Furlough’ involves than they have over the whole of last year.

Ensuring that Furlough is properly implemented, staff paid, and processes completed correctly has required enormous commitment and resources in unfamiliar territory.

The impact for every staff member will be different and their situation unique. Both remote and furloughed staff will be experiencing so many challenges in their day to day life, based on their personal circumstances.

There will be differences in the way they view furlough. Some may simply see it as an enforced break in their work life. However, there will be many who are far more concerned, especially with their job security.

At some point we can all feel isolated and lonely, even overwhelmed as personal life impacts on work life and vice versa. There is no doubt that this is a time of increased sensitivity. The decision to furlough staff is a necessary business one, not a personal one. The impact on businesses will be wide ranging and ongoing.

The mixture of feeling and emotions can greatly impact morale and wellbeing. Losing structure and routine in their lives can be unsettling.  Businesses owners need to find ways to continue to fulfill their Duty of Care to their staff. It is going to be a long journey and we are all in it together.

As an SME business owner, we have been blessed by the support and advice we have received from our business community. They so quickly and proactively moved online and have immediately provided invaluable, practical, and genuine support. Not only online group meetings, but personal confidential support calls, sourcing and providing advice on training and upskilling along with opportunities to be involved in some amazing voluntary activities and charities in the local area. So many incredibly talented business owners are generously providing their services and expertise freely to support their fellow business colleagues it is truly inspirational. So many things to receive and contribute to.

By receiving this help, support and advice business owners are finding the strength and resilience to work through these uncertain times. They adapt, adjust and deal with every ever-changing challenges that come daily.

Having always had a bit of a block with technology I have taken a big lesson from my 75-year-old, widowed mum, who is alone at home. If she can get online with Zoom, banking, bills and shopping, with a bit of support and practice surely, I can!!

The key on all of this is COMMUNICATION. It is good to talk and keep talking.

Please know, as a business owner, you are not alone and there is always a confidential ear for you. If you provide the same to your staff, you will be doing an amazing job in supporting them.

Below are some ideas on plans and activities you can put in place to maintain your ongoing relationships with your work force.

Regular meetings

Keep up open communication. Sharing information to all staff, whether it be positive or negative information, transparency is important. Explaining what is happening in the business and why, will help people understand why things are happening. Showing strong leadership behaviour with regular, consistent updates provides clarity and can soften the impact of difficult conversations.

Show you value your staff.

Simply talking to them, reassure them and remind them that their roles and how much they contribute to the businesses success and that they are missed as part of the team. 

Make time for regular catch up calls

For personal, 1:1 conversation, not just business calls. You need to really listen and understand rather than attempt to advise. There may be some areas that staff do not be comfortable discussing with you so be prepared to source suitable outside professional help. You can consider an employee assistance programme which can offer you a wide range of business support

You can simply calendar in some call times that staff can book for adhoc conversations.

Encourage self-learning and personal development.

Provide opportunities for companywide or individual training and learning. Ask staff what skills training would be beneficial while they have the time to Does not have to be complicated or expensive.

E learning is widely available on a structured or more causal basis. IT can be as simple as a video and discussion. Growing the skill base of staff is good for the individuals but can also be of great value to your business. Apparently learning the guitar is a popular activity now.

Set some fun challenges and see how staff progress.

A little light competition or gamifying challenges can add some fun and well needed light relief. Remember the ice bucket challenge? Some of your staff maybe working remotely, whilst others furloughed. With worries and financial concerns this can start to cause some resentment. By sharing some time showing understanding and staying connected as a team in some way it can alleviate some of the frustration and feelings of isolation. Quiz nights are popular. Or perhaps some fundraising activity for a charity chosen by the staff.

Provide information on wellbeing and wellness resources

With so many mixed emotions and feelings around isolation, feeling vulnerable with no real control, can really impact people’s wellbeing.

To help mind and body and support physical and mental health, there are many activities that again can be accessed online. Many simple, practical ways to enable people to support themselves. Meditation, breathing exercises, keep fit for the more adventurous. Sharing books to read, music you have heard. There are lots of free films, shows and arts that are being shared now.

Some may keep personal issues hidden. You can also provide guidance with links to financial, relationship or emotional helplines and professional support

Set up a FAQ page

This will help you provide lots of information to staff that they may find useful at different times. It will also allow you to communicate updates and provide some clarity to questions that may well arise from new information being released.  Ask your team for their questions so they are contributing and share their knowledge.

The key to all of this is to keep communicating. Your staff may be facing different challenges and emotions at various times. If you keep up open, honest, and transparent communication you are more likely to maintain the trust and loyalty of your work colleagues.

The reality in the here and now is that we can only control what we can.

In all of this it is SME Business Owners and HR professionals are working so hard to adapt and support their businesses and workforce. If you need some support and a confidential conversation yourself, I am always happy to speak with you. We may not know each other well, but what a great opportunity for us to talk, support and plan…How can I help? is always our mantra.

With over 20 years in the recruitment industry, I have worked with a wide range of businesses from start-ups SMEs through to large corporate organisations. This has involved working and consulting with thousands of candidates. I feel privileged and proud to work in a sector I love, helping businesses invest in their most valued assets, their people.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch.

#communicationiskey #supportyourstaff #talkingisgood
#buildingrelationships #supportingeachother #workingtogether
#strongertogether   #insignalwetrust