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How to stay connected with your furloughed employees

7 minute read

The concept of furlough is not new, but the corona crisis has made it a sad reality for millions around the world. For employers the need to furlough staff brings new challenges, the most important being how to keep my furloughed workers engaged?

The legal aspects of a furlough

An employee furlough is a mandatory suspension from work without pay. Companies must have valid reasons to furlough staff, and there are legal requirements for both employers and employees that vary from country to country. More about rights and obligations during a furlough you can read in What Is a Furlough and What Are Employee Rights During One?

But there’s more to a furlough than complying with the law. The main concern for employers is how to keep their furloughed staff connected and ready to return to work as soon as the situation permits.

To deal with furloughed workers in a positive and empowering way, you should ask yourself two questions:

  • What do they need from me?
  • How can I provide this?

What do furloughed employees need most?

  • Information
    First and foremost furloughed employees need information. Be clear and transparent about the current situation and your efforts to bring them back. And make sure that they can access company news and updates and maintain links with colleagues. Invite them for virtual after work drinks and other activities. It’s important to let them feel they are still part of the team. Retaining a sense of belonging will support their well-being and make their future return to work easier.
  • Empathy
    Furloughed employees may ask themselves: “Why me?” They may even fear to be laid off permanently. Or feel guilty about not being able to help their colleagues in this difficult time. Not to mention financial and health worries, feelings of isolation and lack of focus.

    Not being allowed to work can have a great impact on confidence and self-worth. Empathy in all your communication is important. This means that standard messages are not sufficient, and that you should approach your furloughed employees on an individual basis.
  • Support
    ‘Empathy’ sounds a bit hollow if it doesn’t lead to practical help. Support your furloughed employees with legal and other crucial information. And a valuable form of support, that benefits both the well-being of your employees and the company, is offering the possibility to follow trainings.

How can you fulfill these needs?

How will your furloughed staff check company information at home? Most likely on their mobile phone. If you don’t yet use a mobile app to communicate with your workforce, now it’s absolutely time to start implementing this versatile tool. In fact it’s the only effective way to share essential messages and updates in live time with your furloughed employees. It’s also a great tool to make them feel part of the team. The Speakap employee app is a centralized, internal communication hub that connects, informs, and engages your staff when it matters the most. It allows you to bring all employee communication channels together and deliver personalized content experiences tailored to your company culture.

In How to Effectively Communicate with Your Employees During Crisis you can read more about the many ways to use a communication app for employee engagement in challenging times.

Especially regarding furloughed staff there are a few things to consider

  • Furloughed employees have no obligations to stay in touch. You cannot make them check messages or participate in virtual events. So the way to go is make it easy and rewarding.
  • It’s a good idea to create a designated content area for furloughed employees, as a go-to place for everything they need.
  • And maybe the most important consideration: make the communication as personal as you can. This implies a big role for direct managers when it comes to delivering messages, asking about well-being and individual needs and keeping up two-way communication.

For your inspiration: some examples of engaging and empowering messages to your furloughed employees

"You are such a significant part of our team that the workplace is rather bleak without you. We're all looking forward to the day when you’ll join us again.”

"How we all miss your positive and upbeat nature on Monday mornings. We count the days till you come back and share your positive energy with the team.”

"I want you to know that I'm here for you anytime. On behalf of our entire team, please stay safe and take care of yourself and your family. We’re all in it together, and together we’ll push through these challenges."

“Remember the time you saved the municipality deal we had all given up on? We were just talking about it this morning. We really miss your ‘everything is possible’ attitude.”

Conclusion

Even when they’re not allowed to work, and receive no salary, your furloughed employees are still an indispensable part of your workforce. It’s important to keep them connected, to make them feel missed and cared for. Frequent updates, personal messages and individual support will certainly help them to stay positive and be fit for their job when the furlough ends. Communication is key, and a mobile communication app is by far the most effective tool to reach your employees who temporarily have to stay at home.

For more information on building more lasting and loyal relationships with your employees, check out this research study!

Rob is a content writer, copywriter and novelist. His work for Apple, WWF, Mercedes-Benz and many other brands has been awarded with prestigious creative awards.

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