How to support employee wellbeing through furlough and redundancies
The August edition of our workplace wellbeing report found that 61% of furloughed employees said they’re worried about the future security of their job and 39% said their emotional, financial or social wellbeing has suffered by being in the scheme.
To help you identify the current issues facing furloughed employees and provide the support they need, this post will cover:
- How anxieties around job and business security have increased
- What the wellbeing repercussions for furloughed employees are
- Why employees are expecting more support from senior leaders
- How to emphasise job security
- Why you need to listen to employees
- How to build trust with your workforce
And you’ll also get access to our latest checklist which includes five steps to welcome back furloughed employees!
Let’s start with the challenges.
What are the current furlough and redundancy challenges?
By collecting the opinions of 6,732 employees and 301 business leaders, our workplace wellbeing report built an accurate picture of the wellbeing challenges faced by being on furlough and the prospect of redundancy.
Wellbeing repercussions of furlough
Being on furlough had mixed repercussions towards the state of employee wellbeing. While 45% of furloughed employees said they enjoyed the time off/break from working, 39% said that their emotional, financial or social wellbeing was negatively affected by being on furlough.
The split between those enjoying time off and those saying their emotional and social wellbeing has been affected could possibly come down to personality traits. Current wisdom suggests that introverts adapt better to remote working than extroverts – a theory which could be passed on to being on furlough. Introverts typically find constant social interaction taxing, so furlough may have brought a welcome break, whereas extroverts may have found themselves feeling even more isolated.
Financially speaking, many may have felt the pinch from seeing their salary being reduced by 20% or down to the furlough cap of £2,500 a month. Some employers have generously been topping up the salary of their staff. Our survey showed this was done by less than half of businesses (47%), leaving many employees to potentially struggle from the shortfall.
Job and business security anxiety
Despite furlough being a job retention scheme, a huge 61% of furloughed employees we surveyed said they’re worried about the future security of their job. 42% are also concerned about the future of their employer due to participation within the scheme.
This is a time of great uncertainty in the job market, especially as the first UK recession in 11 years is threatening to leave many more people unemployed. Your employees may also be alarmed by the words of Chancellor Rishi Sunak. He publicly stated that the government is "grappling with something that is unprecedented" and that this is "a very difficult and uncertain time".
Employee expectations from leaders
During difficult times, employees look to their senior leaders to help them through to the other side. Whether that comes in the form of changing short term goals or pivoting the business model, the actions of senior leaders can have a big impact on how secure employees feel.
Our latest research shows that workers in the UK are also expecting financial support from managers – 65% of employees stated that they believe senior leadership should take a pay cut before redundancies are made. The managers we surveyed have other ideas though, as only 29% of seniors leaders said they’d be willing to take a pay cut to avoid redundancies.
How do you maintain employee wellbeing during furlough and redundancies?
From the 301 business leaders we surveyed, 95% said they took action to maintain the wellbeing of their furloughed employees. While it’s great that so many businesses share our belief that happier, healthier workforces are more engaged and productive, the challenges we’ve outlined above still need close attention – the following should go some way to help.
Emphasise job security
Showing job security during times of uncertainty is hard – especially when a promise made today could quickly become a burden when an unexpected event strikes tomorrow. This is why it’s important to show your employees the good your business is doing to keep people employed.
The good news? The perceptions furloughed employees have of business security could be skewed just by being in the scheme. This comes from only 17% of employees saying that seeing colleagues being placed on furlough made them worry about the future of their employer. In contrast, 42% of furloughed employees were concerned about the future of their employer.
Rather than risking employee morale with blanket promises, highlight all of the positives which have come from using the furlough scheme. Perhaps by participating, your business was able to survive the current downturn and avoid making redundancies. Your workforce might not see that unless you’ve explicitly told them. You could also keep furloughed employees up to date on the successes your business is having during this time.
Listen to your employees
Our workplace wellbeing report listed the following as the main wellbeing challenges faced by employees on furlough:
- Concerned about the security of my job: 61%
- Concerned about the future of my company: 42%
- It affected my financial wellbeing: 39%
- It affected my emotional wellbeing: 36%
- Felt guilty about not working: 29%
- It affected my social wellbeing: 28%
- Felt more lonely/isolated: 27%
With the wellbeing repercussions of furlough affecting employees differently, you need to understand who has been affected in which way to be able to offer them support. To really tailor that support, we recommend surveying employees and inviting them to provide one-on-one feedback. From there you can target the specific areas of wellbeing which have been most affected.
For example, if you find it’s mainly their emotional wellbeing which has been affected, you may want to consider an employee assistance programme. If it’s their social wellbeing and feelings of isolation, ask them what they’d like to do to feel more included – you can see how we’ve been keeping culture high at Perkbox here.
Build employee trust
Feeling supported by your businesses at an unsettling time will go a long way in building employee/employer relationships. And that relationship is going to be critical in the New Working World. The businesses who put their people at the centre of how we do business – specifically their wellbeing and overall experience at work – will be the ones who thrive in the coming months and years.
Building trust with your employees doesn’t mean you have to avoid making redundancies, it means being as open and honest with them about it as early as possible – especially as 39% of businesses we surveyed are using the furlough scheme to prolong inevitable redundancies.
People appreciate it when their employer is upfront about what is happening, even during bad times. Of course, it will be difficult to please everyone – especially as there are job losses – but keeping people in the dark will only serve to make them less happy and less productive. Think about how you would like to hear the news of redundancies and apply the same logic.
So, how are you feeling about furlough and potential redundancies in your business?
For more guidance, we’ve produced a checklist which you can use to navigate the challenges of furlough ending and potential redundancies. From this checklist, you’ll take away:
- How to shout about employee success
- What job hunt help you can provide
- Five steps to welcome back furloughed staff
Click here or use the banner below to download the checklist now: