“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become”
Going on Furlough – Top Tips for HR, Leaders and Employees
This is our first few days of furlough without our amazing team. Sadly, like many of you we have had no choice but to furlough our employees. We have been lucky in some ways because we have always worked remotely so we haven’t had that shock too. However, this is just another change we are all having to adapt to and in the humanitarian crisis that is Covid-19, we all understand this is a small sacrifice to make at this time. Yet, we shouldn’t ignore the impact yet another change at speed will have both as individuals and as a team.
Here are some early learnings from our experience so far:
TIPS FOR THOSE LEADING OR MANAGING THE CHANGE
Be human first: We are all in this together. How leaders and HR handle this is crucial. People need support and straight answers at such a stressful time. Take the time to talk to everyone, starting with how they are and how their family are doing. Every family is faced with multiple challenges right now.
HR leadership: Work hand in hand with your HR colleagues who will have a huge workload at the moment. As The Economist 26-March-2020 recently reported ‘The coronavirus crisis thrusts corporate HR chiefs into the spotlight’ HR leaders must keep employees healthy; maintain morale; oversee a historic remote-working experiment; and consider whether, when and how to lay workers off. Their in-trays are bulging.
Effective communication: Be as clear and as transparent as you can be. Be honest about how the business is doing so you can rally the team. Authenticity matters so much more than polish right now. Make yourself available and open to any questions your employees have, furloughed or otherwise. Listen hard to what is not being said; a skill which will need to be honed during remote working.
Impact on the team: Where you have a mix of employees on furlough and those still working normally you may experience overload, resentment or anxiety about the future. When fewer workers have to cover the same amount of work, that increase comes with costs – and not only to the workers. Quality, safety and innovation suffer and higher rates of employee burnout and turnover may be a consequence.
Stakeholders: Who needs to know what? Ensure the people who need to know about the change know. Furlough is nothing to be embarrassed about. The fact that you have some employees on furlough could impact a wider group of stakeholders than you first anticipated.
Know the rules: Follow employment law and any applicable rules your government job retention scheme lays out. Ensure all staff understand the rules they need to abide by. They are clearly laid out and you could jeopardise re-payment if rules are broken.
Keep in touch: Arrange ways your team can still be a team even when they are not working. We are planning virtual catch ups and a virtual drink on a Friday evening at the end of each week. Team morale during this time is key. The more attention paid to morale during these disruptive times will pay dividends when things return to the new normal (whatever that looks like).
TIPS FOR THOSE GOING ON FURLOUGH
Bite sized chunks: First time marathon runners will tell you it’s hard to imagine running the full 26 miles. Just as you might feel it is impossible to imagine weeks of not working. A runner approaches marathon training by breaking it down into chunks, working on the first few miles first and building up slowly. They approach the race in the same way. This approach can work for furlough too. Of course, many people will just drop one (work) juggling ball while they keep the others in the air operating as home teacher/parent/carer etc.
Be kind to yourself: Pace yourself and put first things first. You have been through a lot of change at speed. You may need to take some time to process this. Some people find writing a diary helpful in order to capture their thoughts.
Build a new routine: At work you have had a routine every day. You will know how important a routine is for your own health and wellness. Everyone is unique and some people may not need a fully planned day but do recognise your own needs at this time.
Volunteering: You are permitted under the job retention scheme guidance to work as a volunteer for another organisation, for example, volunteering for the NHS. Many local community groups are organising for volunteers to work from their own homes e.g. support chat lines or sewing scrub sets/uniform bags for key workers. This is a brilliant way to put your work skills (organisation, resourcefulness and initiative) to excellent use.
Learn something new: The internet is an abundant source of learning with many resources being offered free. You may wish to carve some time for your own learning. Language companies offering 6-month free, MOOC courses on every subject you can think of, cooking demonstrations, You Tube tutorials on just about anything.
Be connected: This is a great time to connect with people you have not been in touch with or might need a friendly call. And remember that not doing work on furlough doesn’t mean you cannot stay connected. Join a virtual tune in or Friday night virtual drink with the team.
Health and wellness: So important during this time. How might you keep up good habits or introduce some new ones? There are so many free options on-line which are hugely inspiring and all you need is your willpower. You can still run, cycle, walk close to home without breaking social distancing guidelines. And remember to put your phone down!
Think carefully about how you choose to spend your time and most importantly take care. I would love to hear your thoughts and learnings so do reach out. Thank you.
Jane Court, Business Director
For further reading here are a couple of articles you may find of interest: