Put your hand up if you had never heard of furlough prior to 2020?
With October fast approaching, many businesses are preparing to bring people back from furlough. We’ve been speaking to a range of people leaders and HR professionals who say this is one of their most challenging issues at the moment. COVID-19 has affected everyone in different ways. Mental health, bereavement, anxiety, home schooling – the list is long. It’s going to take time to reintegrate people into the workplace, not forgetting home-life may still be difficult. We’ve had several months of online living so day one back in the office is going to be a big change.
Working out who to bring back
There is no set way to do this but consider people who have children at home and will need to arrange childcare or school pick up and drop off as well as people who may be caring for vulnerable relatives. Give at least 48 hours in writing, a call is always encouraged to in order to explain what’s happening and give your staff an opportunity to ask any questions.
By this point, you will have already assessed whether your office is big enough to socially distance all staff members so this may also influence how many people return. You could also consider putting employees on a rotation, so everyone is treated fairly.
Many companies who shut down completely won’t be fully up and running instantly so this will also dictate who returns first in terms of job function.
Now you’ve decided who you’re bringing back, you could consider running an online engagement/team building event to start to re-onboarding process. Our People & Culture team at Circle, recently facilitated an online team building event with a Bristol based business, in place of the company’s annual trip abroad. We ran a session with 24 employees including employees based across the UK, Europe and South America.
“It was a highly professional, constructive and remarkably enjoyable afternoon. I am already receiving great feedback from the team.”
Director, Kidd Aitken
Re-onboarding after furlough
Treat this like you would with any new employee starting with you. We suggest, starting with an offer letter. This should include any changes that have been made including the role, salary, benefits, changes to sick leave or annual leave. Any support for well-being is also essential to highlight. Whether you’re engaging with a mental health specialist or running Zoom meditation sessions, let everyone know where they can access support.
We also suggest giving employees a handbook outlining health and safety measures now in place to protect them against COVID. Here at Circle, we’re big fans of the ‘paperwork stuff,’ being carried out digitally so why not send the offer letter and handbook to your employees prior to them returning to they can digest the information? Even better, a short video to highlight the safety measures. Videos are well received and make information easy to understand – it’s also a lot less formal and official looking than a lengthy word document – yawn!
After several months away, a full week in the office will be tiring. We suggest being flexible with hours. For example, short days and perhaps to begin with, asking people back for 2/3 days before working up to a 5 day week. Why not send a survey to your employees asking their thoughts? This will increase their engagement and make them feel included and valued.
Your employees will need to feel supported during this process. Many HR professionals are concerned with the potential shift in equilibrium. The pandemic will have inflicted unequal impact on everyone, for example, those being on furlough and those working, potentially working longer hours and taking on extra work to make up staff shortages. Think of ways to bring people back together through team building events to enhance engagement and reintegrate your people with your culture.
Weekly 121’s are going to be key. Not just a form filling exercise but a quality discussion about how employees are getting on, how they’re feeling and what you as a business leader, can do to help.
If you’ve read any of our content before, you’ll already know that we’re big on communication. In fact, we believe that it’s one of the key things that make for a happy, engaged workforce. We suggest providing weekly or bi-monthly business updates, from the Directors. Whether this is done live (streamed online for those still at home) or video (we do love a video) or via a well written, jargon free document. Ambiguity adds to anxiety and any gaps in your communication will be filled in by your employees guessing what’s going on. Nip that in the bud by creating an open, honest environment. Knowing that they’re included will be pivotal to their well-being.
We hope this has been helpful for you. If you would like to discuss any team building workshops then do let us know, we would love to see whether we could help you.