Make each one of them feel important! Those who feel valued by their employer are more likely to engage positively with returning to work. Furloughed employees may think that their role is less vital than those of their non-furloughed colleagues, simply because they were selected for furlough. Aim to earn their belief that their part is integral to the business; they’ll be happier to return. It’s vital to communicate well before they return, on their first day in, and beyond. Excellent communication will help your team understand the new health & safety rules. Reassure them that they matter and that their health is important. Allow your team to ask questions and share concerns; a line manager should have the responsibility to have a one-to-one phone or video chats with each furloughed person before they return so that worries can be addressed.
Remember - every person on furlough will have a different experience of lockdown, and you’ll be faced with a variety of issues to deal with. Some of your team will be desperate to get back to work; others will be hesitant because of extra caring responsibilities; most will be worried about pay; and, of course, they may feel vulnerable to redundancy. If you can guarantee they won’t be made redundant, communicate this as they will feel happy with the security. If you’re not sure at this point, be open about this. Also, communicate what your hopes are, and your strategy for building the business and how they might contribute to this.
Be gentle with your non-furloughed team members. They mustn’t feel that they’ve been working hard, while their furloughed colleagues have been enjoying a staycation. Show them appreciation and recognise their efforts through difficult times, perhaps through shout-outs on company communications, or through thoughtful thank you gifts and treats that make their time in the office more comfortable, safer and more enjoyable.
Are they returning to work but from home? Discuss with your furloughed employees whether they could adapt responsibilities to return from furlough - but work from home. Remote working is becoming more normalised, so why not start the conversation now.
It can be challenging to re-engage furloughed employees back into the swing of work when work is performed remotely. Don’t expect the best productivity from the start, and make sure that your home working employee has everything they need, including; objectives, the right tools, a line manager checking in with them & inclusion in video team meetings.
Make sure your team are happy and working well together! Take a phased approach to re-introduction of the group - this will give your team time to get used to each other again. Give responsibility to non-furloughed employees to take their re-introduced colleagues through the new practices, bringing them together. Give socially-distanced “parties” to welcome people back and recognise the hard work of non-furloughed employees. Don’t forget treats, like lunches, for everyone. The key to re-introducing your furloughed employees is to focus on the physical, mental and emotional health of all your people, and to treat everyone with flexibility and sensitivity.