Could your furloughed employees be feeling disengaged?

A survey conducted by a business psychology firm found that there is a substantial difference in the perception of work between furloughed employees and non-furloughed employees.

Responses from 500 employees indicated that those returning from furlough feel more disconnected from work and not as satisfied in their roles in comparison to non-furloughed employees and this includes a significant drop in personal confidence by those furloughed since the scheme was introduced in March 2020. 

There are probably endless examples of circumstances where employees do not wish to return to work because they have been furloughed for an extended period time and are now being called back to work with little or no contact in the interim.

Whilst the benefits of furlough are clear, so are the drawbacks and so how can you as an employer address the issue of furloughed employees feeling disengaged from work?

1. Make arrangements with furloughed employees to keep in touch

We can all appreciate that since the pandemic hit, businesses have been rushed off their feet, trying to hold the fort in a situation they could have never foreseen and have found themselves doing things out of the ordinary to keep the business operating.

Whilst keeping abreast of all the changes and learning new ways of managing the business, employers are found to have paid less attention to those placed on furlough for extended periods and it comes as no surprise those employees are likely to feel out of touch with work.

One way to tackle this issue is to make arrangements with those furloughed to keep in touch. Diarising a telephone call to catch up with furloughed employees on a regular basis will help them feel that they remain a part of the business despite not being physically present.

The conversation does not have to always be about work, it could focus on other topics for example, what the furloughed employee has been doing with their spare time.

It is worth agreeing with the employee in advance if you are going to contact them by telephone so that you know when is best to contact them. Some employees may express a desire not to be contacted so frequently and if they do, it is best to respect their decision to avoid having the opposite effect on them.

2. Update emails

In addition to or as an alternative to regular telephone catch ups, you might want to consider sending update emails to furloughed employees. The update could include what was discussed in recent communication meetings or simply set out any changes or updates taking place. You may even wish to go as far as asking furloughed employees for their opinion on matters that require decision making (as long as it does not constitute work on their part). 

Update emails will allow you to keep your furloughed employees in the loop about what is going on in the business and will let them know that you are thinking of them as part of the business.

3. Meet ups

Another option is to have regular meet ups with furloughed employees, this could be on an individual basis or in a small group or both. Emails and telephone calls are always useful but meeting up with individuals for a coffee can also be good as it may allow you to really see how your employees are coping.

It may even be worth arranging meetings for furloughed employees with other members of their team in a casual setting so that they can catch up with what has been going on in the team since being placed on furlough.

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4. Create groups for those who are furloughed

For those employees who agree to take part, you could set up a group for furloughed employees to catch up between themselves. Furloughed employees are likely to have limited contact with other employees which probably adds to the feeling of disconnect from the wider business and so creating an opportunity to chat with other furloughed employees is likely to encourage them to open up with one another, encourage a sense of inclusiveness and tackle any feelings of lack of confidence. 

5. Consider flexi-furlough or rotational furlough

If the business is unable to allow employees to return to work fully, it may be worth considering whether flexible-furloughing employees or rotationally furloughing employees could help so that employees spend less time on furlough, and it is more evenly spread.

This would mean the added administration time and is of course subject to the needs of the business, but this would mean that those employees on furlough spend less time away from work which in turn helps build back any lack of personal confidence, it helps maintain a connection with work and could avoid employees feeling dissatisfied in the role.

Looking forward and preparing for the future

In March 2021, the Government confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended to the end of September 2021.

To help assist furloughed employees from feeling disconnected from the business and dissatisfied with their role and to avoid losing self-confidence in treasured employees, we recommend you regularly review the business’s position in regard to furlough to see if there is scope for employees to return.

If you have or are going to have employees on furlough for some time, we recommend that you consider some of the options above to help retain your relationship with your employees and maintain their self-confidence so that they are willing to return to work with a positive outlook. If you wish to discuss the best way to avoid your furloughed staff from feeling disconnected, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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