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Our forgotten workforce?

With the likelihood that some of our colleagues across the UK could be furloughed for a further four months, how can organisations keep them engaged?

Some businesses face a potential reality of some employees not returning to work until October, which would result in those employees being out of work for up to eight months! A key consideration for organisations is how they keep their workforce engaged and motivated so they return with a bang…

HR teams and Internal Communication specialists are all working in unprecedented times, to keep teams engaged and motivated, whether furloughed or holding the fort. Current Government guidelines state that employees placed on furlough cannot do any work for their employer. This will change from August onwards when the government says furloughed workers can return on a part-time basis.

Keeping a furloughed workforce engaged requires a multi-faceted flexible approach as outlined below:

Encourage Upskilling

Providing furloughed workers with the opportunity to enhance their skills, whether that be in their current role or part of their CPD, will help them stay engaged with the industry they are working in.  It will keep them up to date with industry news and advancements, thus enhancing their skills and adding value to them. Work based training is permitted with the Government, stating:

‘Furloughed employees are able to engage in training, as long as doing so does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their company or a linked or associated company. Where training is undertaken at the request of their employer, furloughed employees are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will be sufficient to cover these training hours. However, if the time spent training exceeds the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages’

Work with your employees to develop a training plan, which benefits them, their interests and their aspirations. This will enable them to keep in touch with their industry and not lose those vital skills and attributes you hired them for in the first place!

Weekly bulletins

Providing weekly bulletins, either via the traditional newsletter or video conference calls will help your teams feel more connected. Setting up a bulletin board on your intranet where your furloughed workers can send messages to the remaining workforce is also a practical option.  Regular weekly communications advising all parties of business news, celebrating success and useful hints and tips, will create a feeling of oneness and inclusion for everyone. It is important to note that for furloughed workers attendance on video calls is not mandatory and is a method to help facilitate communication should they want it.

Company Quizzes/Meetups

Yes, there are plenty of quizzes around at the moment and by the end of this, we may all be applying to appear on Mastermind or the Chase… A good old social for all the people willing to participate will go a long way to creating togetherness. There seems to be a misconception that furloughed employees are just not bothered! Imagine spending eight hours a day with your team for the last five years, knowing everything that is happening, from business performance to whether Janet in accounts is really a TikTok sensation! We all need people and social interaction outside our family and household units and what better way than to host an online quiz or coffee morning, cocktail party to get your teams interacting.


WhatsApp with you? This platform is a fantastic way to keep people talking, strict rules apply, no work talk! Let us just see or hear what everyone is doing. WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger groups are a great way to keep up communication and interaction; it is instant and relaxed and enables your teams to show their human side whilst providing that vital link back into your business.

Line Manager Communication

For any furloughed worker it is important they stay in contact with their team and line manager. Consider setting up regular calls with  your teams to just ‘check-in’ and make sure they are coping, listen to any concerns, update them on progress, but most of all just say “Hello, how are you, we miss you!”

Offer Support

All of our employees have access to NAvigate, an online employee portal that provides advice on health and wellbeing as well as a free confidential support helpline for those of us who may be struggling. It is important that as a business we facilitate, where we can, the need for emotional and mental health support, especially during this time. There are many organisations offering help and advice. We have listed these below so why not provide your teams with access to this support, reassuring them that it is ok to reach out and get help if they need it.

Whatever your approach is to keep your teams engaged, remember to be human. Some people may want to take this furloughed time to educate their children at home; some may need to take on an additional job to support their families. It’s vital to remember that we don’t know the financial situation of all households. Some employees, whether furloughed or remaining, may need more interaction from you to help them still feel valued.

One thing is for sure, these are times, as a generation, we have never seen before and opening lines of communication for those who need it most will be beneficial for both parties.


NHS – Every Mind Matters

Young Minds









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