mental health awareness week: supporting furloughed employees

posted on May 2020 by claire roberts, head of hr and talent management

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Supporting the mental health of furloughed employees


Approximately 7.5 million jobs were furloughed in the UK between April 20th and May 10th 2020. That’s millions of people at home possibly worrying about childcare responsibilities, job security and the impact of the pandemic overall.

It’s a lot to take on for anyone and it’s imperative that those affected feel supported and valued, especially for their mental health. Whether it be one person or a large chunk of your organisation affected, here’s some advice and resources to help boost your furloughed employees’ mindset and ease any concerns they may have. You never know, your team might come out of this stronger than ever!

Communication

Keep your team in the loop

Even though furloughed employees aren’t working, make time to regularly update them on the key changes within your business. They are still an employee and keeping them in the loop will help reduce the intimidation of returning to a potentially completely different business after the pandemic.

Maintain team spirit

Furloughed employees are your team and they need to feel like they still are. If you haven’t already, take some time to meet up with them virtually through Zoom, House Party etc. These tools allow teams to come together outside of the 9 to 5, share what they’ve been up to and talk about how they’re feeling. You might be tired of Zoom meetings now, but someone who has been stuck between This Morning and Murder She Wrote will love the social aspect; hearing about financials, office politics, business wins and what’s been going on day-to-day.

Be kind

For many, work is so much more than an income. It can be an escape from a controlling partner, a social circle from an isolated home life, a simple constant for someone with mental health issues, or a purpose for someone who just loves their job. To have that taken away no matter what the circumstances, can be unsettling and catastrophic. For this reason, make sure there are resources available for those who need that extra support that a weekly call just won’t give them.  Click here for a list of mental health organisations offering support.

Health, wellbeing and growth

Training

If your company has access to online training suites, encourage your furloughed employees to make the most of them and refresh on what they’re responsible for within their role. They might not have time to do this normally, so now is the perfect opportunity for learning and taking advantage of the tools on offer. (Note: government guidelines regarding training may have associated payments).

Personal growth and wellness

If your business doesn’t have the capital to support employer-led training, encourage furloughed employees to look at personal growth, whether that’s a new skill, a hobby or focusing on their mindset and mental health. There are loads of free resources online spanning from educational courseslanguage lessons and podcasts to yoga classeshome workouts and meditation.

Does your company use a reward platform? Perkbox for example, offers our team benefits including employee assistance programmes, workout plans, cinema downloads, discounts and incentives. Furloughed employees can still access these benefits, so if your company uses one it's worth checking their emails are set up in a way they can still access the website and / or app.

Physical health

Furloughed or not, take time to ensure all your employees are taking care of themselves. There is a rising concern that individuals aren’t reporting illnesses and instead, are suffering at home or self-medicating rather than visiting a GP or A&E like they used to.

Financial

Clear expectations

Make sure you are honest and transparent with those on furlough. They need to understand the length of the furlough period and why that is, what they can expect in terms of salary, amendments for bank holidays and training. Being unsure of a specific return is fine but try to catch up regularly so they don’t feel like they’re being kept in the dark.

Support

Furlough may restrict some government benefits but provide your team with information about what’s available and what they’re entitled to. Knowledge is king, so sharing useful guidance and information on mortgage/rental holidays, financial holidays for credit cards or higher purchase items will really help.

Here's some financial links that might come in handy:

Paying rent:

Council tax reductions: 

Managing finances

You can also find lots of useful information on our COVID-19 information hub including guidance, webinars and details about what measures we’ve put in place to keep our candidates, clients and employees safe.