It looks like the end to total lockdown may be in sight. Quite what the process for a return to work will be remains to be seen, and while many businesses continue to furlough staff, there are several who are already unfurloughing staff.
So how do we go about fairly selecting those who return to work while being aware that many will have concerns or may indeed still be self-isolating because they are or they live with vulnerable people?
One of the most important steps you can take to re-integrate furloughed staff is to connect with them. To check in with them in the lead up to their return and regularly thereafter. By truly connecting with your team members you will have a better understanding of their needs and be better able to tailor how you re-integrate them.
Of course, firstly it is vital to be honest with people about when you would like them to return to work and whether this means them resuming their normal hours and work duties. If you are proposing any changes it is important that you discuss these honestly with the employee and, where it is necessary, consult with the employee.
Then you can ask the employee what support they feel they need. Every employee will have different needs and preferences and the best way to fully re-integrate them back into work is to understand, from their perspective, what support or measures they feel they need to perform at their best when they return.
Here are 5 things to consider to ensure you re-integrate your employees:
Discuss what returning from the furlough period means in terms of return date, clarity of the role, hours, salary, benefits and any safety procedures that may have been put in place. It is best practice to ensure this is confirmed in writing and where relevant that they are consulted with about any changes. If you have a People or HR function they should be able to guide you in this area.
Communication and Information
When you consider that furloughed employees have been unable to work and may not have been connecting with the team in the same way as those working, it would be reasonable to assume that they may need an update on the key priorities for the team and their individual role. It is also recommended that you inform them about any key changes or messages that have occurred during the furlough period.
It is good practice to ask them to familiarise themselves with the employee handbook and employment policies. If there have been any policy changes to support the re-integration after lockdown it is the handbook and employment policies where these changes are likely to be referenced. In addition, April and October are when a number of key employment law changes take place and again these are likely to have been updated in the organisation’s employee handbook or employment policies.
It is good practice to ask them to confirm that they have read and understood them and this could be done by way of email confirmation.
In order to prevent employees from being able to work during a furlough period, it is likely the organization may have restricted some level of IT access. It is very important that prior to the employees return all IT access is reinstated so they can continue working from the minute the furlough period ends. This will make the transition back into work smoother.
If there is anything we can take from challenging times in lockdown, it’s that we have all learnt valuable lessons and identified opportunities to work in new and creative ways. When considering the re-integration of people after lockdown or furlough, rather than thinking ‘when we go back’ instead focus on ‘when we move forward’!