Millions of employees are now furloughed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, from big airlines to retail businesses. Although some have returned to work, some still wonder when they will get their jobs back, and whether they will. It has been confirmed that several big corporations are downsizing their workforce. So far, however, several business leaders have opted to furlough employees instead of fully cutting ties.

Let’s quickly understand what an employee furlough is.

An employee furlough, to put it simply, is when employers ask their employees to take unpaid leaves of absence. In other words, the furloughed workers will not work and will not be paid. But they’re still going to remain employed, practically.

Between a layoff and a furlough, there’s one main difference. That is, a layoff is permanent, whereas a furlough is supposed to be temporary.

Stacy Bolger, vice president of global employee experience at InMoment, a Utah-based customer feedback management company, says, “They have the uncertainty of not knowing when they will be able to go back to work, but they still need to provide for their family and pay their bills. hey may love what they do and the organization they work with, but basic human needs are going to overtake those other preferences at this point, especially given that we’re several months into this.” She adds that there is likely to be a significant shift towards job hunting, where employees look for employment opportunities outside their profession or sector, potentially pushing them to take a lower-paid or professional position just to meet basic needs for health and safety. Not only will this trigger a decline in retention, but also in engagement.

Bolger further says that staying in touch with their furloughed workers is important for employers who are looking to attract high achievers. Company-wide emails can provide useful information quickly, but typically they do not address furloughed employees ‘ individual questions or concerns, which can lead to frustration and feelings of neglect. Instead, through customized outreach, organizations can stabilize employee morale for those who intend to return.

For employers who have had to make the tough decision to furlough employees, this poses a tremendous challenge, and it is important that they keep employees engaged now to avoid catastrophic repercussions later down the line.

So, how do you keep your furloughed employees engaged?

Here are 5 ways to keep furloughed employees engaged.

Image credit- Unsplash

1. Connect with employees on social platforms

Employees who have taken a step away from work should not have to lose contact with their colleagues and the organization as a whole. Furloughed employees can link to each other and to the company through a vibrant social platform. They can support each other, ask for advice, encourage open conversations, or simply stay in touch with the help of online polls and surveys. It will help the organization collect feedback at this crucial time.

2. Customize internal communications

Your content and communication would have to take advantage of every platform at reach. Most furloughed workers will possibly access your intranet, so blogs, podcasts, and other dedicated content will prove more successful than conventional communications. Email alerts and mandatory reading features will have a role in the delivery of critical notifications, keeping employees involved with the community.

3. Designate internal ambassadors

A great way to ensure that everyone has a ‘go-to’ person when needed is to appoint internal ambassadors within your organization. In the long run, they will become a valuable asset to sustain and reach those put on furlough, to preserve a sense of community.

4. Have a little fun

Building a unique outside work experience gives people a sense of connection and instills loyalty, so it is worth taking time outside of regular working hours or at the end of the week so that everyone can participate.

5. Reconsider your Employee Value Proposition

Your present and future Employee Value Proposition ( EVP) is an essential factor when engaging with furloughed workers and looking forward to their return. Your EVP is the reason why existing workers retain and why new talent wants to join the organization.

It is however possible, that this proposition will have shifted as a result of the dramatic changes that COVID-19 has brought about in all sectors when furloughed employees return. As employers, you must also understand what the new EVP would be like and communicate it with the furloughed employees to make their transition back to the organization as seamless as possible.