Step Up to Engage Furloughed Staff

Furloughed workers are feeling neglected

Furloughed workers are feeling neglected and are increasingly losing confidence in their employers, a new survey shows. The Lockdown Employment Survey, conducted by executive search and leadership development firm bfpeople, suggests that organisations will need to take a more people-centric and highly strategic approach to bringing back furloughed staff following months of employee/employer disconnect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conducted in June at the height of business closures across the UK, the research shows that 58% of furloughed workers have felt unsupported by their employer, with just 1% having confidence in their future with the organisation.

59% of those on the government’s job retention scheme had actively sought new employment opportunities while at home, and 87% said that their loyalty to their employer had remained stagnant or had dropped during lockdown.

The results confirm that, as was anticipated, furloughed workers have naturally been concerned about redundancies. According to Garry Young, Deputy Director for the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, unemployment rates in the UK are expected to hit 10% by the end of 2020.

“Employee engagement is taking on a new dimension,” says John Hamilton, Managing Director of bfpeople. “Firms need to have a clear strategy for bringing people back into the workplace and there is a strong need to ensure that adequate support is provided to both rebuild the psychological contract and prevent segregation between furloughed and non-furloughed staff.”

The results of the bfpeople survey come at a time when a growing number of organisations are beginning to think about bringing more of their furloughed staff back into the workplace. According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics’ Business Impact of COVID-19 report, more than 50% of those in the arts and hospitality sectors, and around one third of those in administration and transport, were still furloughed in mid-July.

Recent updates to the JRS scheme saw businesses needing to contribute towards furlough payments from August 1st, sparking a significant drive across many industries to bring back more staff and facilitate a return to normality.

To add to the challenge of bringing furloughed staff back to work, the bfpeople research also shows that 20% of those working as usual feel that it is unfair that furloughed staff are receiving a salary while not working. There are growing concerns that this situation may create or exacerbate tension in the workplace, and is something that employers and managers need to consider.

According to Hamilton and the bfpeople team, now is the time for organisations to carefully consider employee wellbeing and satisfaction, and ensure that measures are in place to facilitate a responsible return to work plan. Businesses may wish to consider a range of engagement strategies, such as talent assessments to bring workers back into positions that drive them forwards towards their career goals, training and development opportunities to help employees achieve their full potential, and ongoing support.

Team building and social exercises may also be used to integrate staff back into the environment, while those who have remained in the workplace during the pandemic could be offered ambassador status within the organisation, reminding them of their passions, and why they joined the firm.

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