These top tips are for leaders currently trying to manage the human side of the furlough extension – they are applicable for those who are currently on full time furlough, those who are flexibly furloughed and for those who will soon be returning from furlough.
Whether you’ve extended furlough completely for some of your staff or you’re taking advantage of the flexible furlough scheme, communication is essential. Although furloughed staff can’t undertake work for you, you can keep them updated on what’s going on, when they’ll be back, what you’ve been up to and so on. When we originally furloughed the majority of our staff at DSC back in March we diarised a regular, weekly zoom meeting that everyone could attend if they wanted to. Everyone was interested in hearing about what was going on and loved seeing their colleagues albeit virtually. Some people really valued having something that added structure to their week.
In times like this honesty is so important. If you’re not honest with your team about what is happening financially and structurally then they will worry. Everyone already has enough stress due to the pandemic, make sure you’re not adding to this by not being honest. There is nothing worse than something accidentally slipping out which hasn’t been properly briefed. Or teams hearing about big decisions, a difficult cash situation or anything else via the grapevine! If you don’t know because things are so uncertain then you should say it.
3. Informal chats
Create the space for your teams to communicate informally, this could be a WhatsApp group, (personally, I have been in fits of giggles from the DSC staff WhatsApp group). Don’t fall into the trap of thinking because members of your team are flexibly furloughed, and are therefore working less hours each week, that they don’t need to have the space to meet (virtually) with their colleagues informally – they absolutely do need this time and as a leader it’s up to you to create the space to allow them to do that.
It’s important to recognise whatever type of furlough you are using for your teams, people still need a level of flexibility. Staff are still trying to juggle working at home, childcare, school/nursery closures if there is a confirmed covid case, looking after elderly parents and volunteering. Added to this is the fact that if you’re stuck at home you’re also thinking about the three loads of washing that need to be done, the bowl full of washing up and bins that desperately need to be taken out. It’s so important as leaders that you recognise these pressures on top of potentially having less hours to complete your work each week if you’re flexibly furloughed. This is also an important conversation to have with staff when they are returning from furlough – what do they need from you to allow them to be able to undertake their role effectively?
Emotions are high at the moment, we are constantly feeling fearful of the virus, we are worrying about our families, what is going to happen in the world, when we will return to normal and most of all we are all bloody knackered! You’re knackered if you’ve been furloughed, if you’re currently furloughed, if you’re flexibly furloughed or if you’ve worked fulltime through this entire pandemic. Check in with your teams, even if they’re not currently working, give them space to sob, give them space to rant and don’t try and solve whatever they are feeling. Feeling these things at the moment is normal but we all do need a listening ear – provide that and support them through this difficult time.