Until recently, 'furlough' was a relatively unknown term in the UK. Now, with many businesses relying on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it has become a household word, well used in the new Covid-19 vocabulary.
For a lot of businesses, the pandemic has necessitated the use of furlough, entering them into previously uncharted waters.
Some businesses are now looking at bringing furloughed team members back to work, and finding that this is presenting unique communication challenges. Ensuring that furloughed employees are engaged and ready when normal work resumes so they can pick up where they left off is no mean feat. Unless, of course, you plan your communications strategy ahead to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
The more time you invest in keeping furloughed employees up to speed during their time away from the business, the more engaged and motivated to hit the ground running they will be when they return. This may also translate into greater productivity.
To get you started with your communications plan, here are 10 tips for communicating effectively with the people you are planning to bring out of furlough:
- Be professional, but don’t forget to be human, too. Show empathy. Try to put yourself in your team members' shoes and imagine the concerns they may have about returning to work.
- Keep it personal. Don’t just send a letter out of the blue. Have a conversation first and tailor their return to their individual circumstances as much as possible.
- Communicate openly and honestly to explain the decisions you are taking.
- If you find the same questions coming up from different people, consider developing FAQs to provide consistent messaging for everyone in your team.
- Make sure that people on furlough still feel part of the team. This relies on communication during the furlough period, not just when you are ready to bring people back into the business. Think about how they will access business updates and tailor communications specifically for them.
- Consider what people may have missed. What has changed in the business? How can you bring them up to speed quickly? How will you reassure them about what they will come back to?
- Plan their reintroduction. This is particularly important if your business has changed dramatically while they have been on furlough leave. Revisit your company induction and tailor it for people returning to work.
- Reassure them about the safety and social distancing measures you have put in place, and communicate any changes in behaviour that you expect of them.
- Clear your video diary for when people return and be as visible and available as you possibly can be to answer any questions.
- Offer your support. Set up one to one sessions for their return. For some, this may have been an extremely isolating time and so a one to one session will help you reconnect and find out if they need any external support to help with mental health issues.