The Furlough, The Pros & The Cons…

Whilst the government furlough scheme has been an absolute blessing for many organisations and business owners across the UK, it does have its pitfalls.  Employers do need to stay alert and in contact with their staff.  Employee feedback surveys have shown the following:

Furloughed employees not being contacted, and the impact on your business

  • Lack of communication with your employees could mean that employees may have other things going on that you are not aware of.  Employees could be concerned about future job security, worrying about how they will return to work with childcare and school restrictions still in place, or elderly/ill relatives to look after, and thus suffering with stress.
  • They may have found a new job, or they may have relocated to be nearer to close family and have no intention to return to work, resulting in gaps in your workforce.

Expectations of furloughed and non-furlough staff

  • Mixed feelings between furloughed and non-furloughed about the pros and cons of both situations, highlighted possible feelings of resentment on both sides, which, left unacknowledged, could result in friction within teams
  • For example, a company which has kept some staff working but furloughed others, could mean pay inequality between furloughed and non-furloughed workers, the staff working may resent those getting paid to stay at home and “do nothing”, whilst the furloughed staff might resent the ones working, and are left wondering, ‘why were they picked and not me?’ ‘Am I not good enough?’ ‘Does this mean I’ll be first to be let go if there are job cuts?’ etc.

Training for furloughed staff

  • The survey highlighted that many companies and employees did not realise that they could access training whilst furloughed. This is a great opportunity for employees to take advantage of during this time.
  • Training is motivational and good for morale, especially if the training is interactive, and can also keep staff feeling involved and still part of the team
  • Furloughed staff may also need training and bringing up to speed with new processes such as Health & Safety in the workplace, ready for working in the new era of social distancing.

Communication is therefore key

All businesses, no matter what size, must have a communication strategy in place to facilitate two-way communication with their employees.  The learning so far suggests that employers need to be much more proactive in keeping in touch with their furloughed (and non-furloughed) staff and need to guard against acting on assumptions about how people might be feeling.  Taking the time to have deeper, meaningful conversations with staff beyond quick 5- minute telephone catch ups, could make all the difference.  Otherwise, the return to work could bring unnecessary and unexpected, additional challenges for employers and staff.