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Ten Ways to Support Furloughed Employees

If you have already or you are currently considering what employees you may need to furlough, it is crucial to consider the impact that this might have on your teams. This will be a significant change for most people and this needs to be managed in an individual and sensitive way to ensure employees still feel valued and part of the team.

We have outlined 10 ways in which you can continue to support, engage with and look after the wellbeing of your teams whilst they are on furlough:

Understand shielding employees or those with caring responsibilities - establish 1-1 communications to enable employees to disclose if they may be a shielding employees or if they have caring responsibilities, though in some situations employees may not want to disclose such information. Employers can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance if they are unable to work from home. Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities (e.g. looking after children) resulting from COVID-19 can also be furloughed.

Keep in Touch (KIT) Briefings - it is important to agree a process for KIT Briefings to keep employees informed and engaged during furlough as we know that the situation is ever changing. Ensure that wellbeing is on the agenda for KIT Briefings as well as business updates and more general opportunities for social interaction and personal updates. Ideally communications would be sent out at least weekly to all employees.

Be honest and transparent - the fear of the unknown can cause undue stress and anxiety, so be upfront and honest with your teams, outlining why decisions have been made and don’t make commitments that you may not be able to honour.

Have individual conversations with all employees - every employee will have a different response and reaction to being furloughed and so communications should be on an individual basis and via phone or video call, not via email where the communication can come across as uncaring or received in the wrong way. You should listen to the concerns and individual situations of your employees, consider how you may be able to help and continue to support them during the next few months and agree how they would like to be communicated with on an ongoing basis which may differ from employee to employee.

Remind individuals what support is still available to them - if you have access to an EAP, counselling services or Occupational Health, remind your teams that this is still available for them and send them details of what support services can be accessed and how.

Volunteering - those who are furloughed are still able to volunteer as long as they are ready to return to work when the time comes. Volunteering can give individuals a new purpose and can support their wellbeing by giving them something to focus on and something that is making a difference. Individuals can sign up to the National Care Force or explore local community groups within their area that need help.

Communication - continue to communicate with all members of the team that may have been furloughed, this could be organisational wide communications, team communications or individual communications to check in with employees. It will be up to the employee if or how they respond to communications but this will ensure that individuals are still kept updated and as part of the team.

Social Activities - if you have been organising social activities with your teams, such as virtual quizzes, bake off competitions or virtual coffee breaks, make sure you still invite though that have been furloughed to these activities. This will help them still feel part of the team and ensure they are still getting social interaction with those within the organisation.

Offering training and development opportunities - similarly to volunteering, those that have been furloughed are also still able to continue to carry out training and continual professional development. Talk to your employees about what (if any) development they would like throughout this period and send them opportunities about what they can access, this shows the organisation still cares about them and their individual growth. This can be organisational specific training and development, or other resources which are now available such as free Open University Courses or free training courses that LinkedIn are now offering.

Have regular discussions about wellbeing - set up regular calls with those that have been furloughed to discuss their wellbeing, understand how they may be coping with the change and reiterate what support is available to them. Perhaps set up groups for those employees that have been furloughed to discuss their wellbeing and share how everyone is coping and what individuals are doing to support their wellbeing.

Ensure you consider throughout the period, how you will integrate your teams back in to the workplace when the time comes as this will be critical to your business. As leaders we need to ensure that employees are ready and excited to springboard back into the workplace with commitment and motivation knowing that they have been looked after by their organisation throughout this turbulent time.

Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

Gemma Carter-Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting

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