Most employees would say they don’t have the time to reflect on their personal goals and ambitions, to explore their values or what drives them in their careers – let alone spending time brushing up their skills or developing new capabilities. Being furloughed is a great opportunity to invest in ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t ‘normally’ allow ourselves to do. For many, this will be an anxious time, and having too much time to reflect and think may lead to employees wondering how to keep abreast and up to date with the world of work. Providing furloughed employees with the necessary resources and guidance to use their furlough time productively and to develop effective stress management techniques will help them remain connected to the organisation, and motivated to pick up where they left off upon their return to work.
Providing support and demonstrating care
Whether we like to admit it or not, so many of us are defined by our careers – and being temporarily separated from these labels may lead to a loss of identity or a lack of engagement and connection to the organisation. Your people will be paramount to your success when we return to the ‘new normal’, and it’s important that you demonstrate this value to your furloughed employees – ensuring they’re ready to hit the ground running when the time comes.
Whilst employees may be unable to perform any work duties during furlough, you can still provide support and guidance around personal development. We’ve identified three key areas for support:
With mental wellbeing at the top of the agenda for employers and individuals alike, many of us will be discovering that our resilience and stress-management skills need some strengthening. Strategies for handling a prolonged period of change and uncertainty can include: developing a positive mindset, understanding the change curve, identifying elements within our control, and techniques such as mindfulness and breathing. Whilst there’s a wealth of information available online, directly contacting your furloughed employees with advice and signposting on how to look after their mental health will demonstrate care and provide an additional level of support.
Gone are the days when employees could rely on their employer to map out and manage their career for them. Now is the time for individuals to undertake a career ‘stocktake’, reflecting on past successes and identifying strengths and development areas to help plan for the future. It’s also a great opportunity to consider how their skills and aspirations align with the organisation, and to think about potential next steps – whether that’s developing in their existing role, gaining experience in another department, or taking on additional responsibilities.
Skills needs and requirements are changing rapidly – and whilst the post-pandemic world of work is still largely unknown, there’s never been a better time to upskill or reskill. Having completed their self-reflection, individuals may have acknowledged specific areas for improvement, or identified a new skill that could be useful moving forwards. Whilst training cannot be directly related to the employee’s specific job role, there’s a wealth of options for developing both hard and soft skills during this time – whether that’s brushing up on Excel techniques, completing a project management qualification or improving communication or lateral thinking skills. The UK government is providing a range of free training courses for individuals, and organisations can also support their employees with access to further learning resources.