If the Oxford English dictionary wants some new entries for its 2020 edition, we’re sure Teams, #isolife and a certain virus that shall not be named, would make the grade. But while the term furlough is not new to the OED, its use and move into common parlance are.
With around a third of the UK workforce expected to be on furlough leave during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s likely you’ve either furloughed some of your own team, or know people who have been put on the scheme. While it’s a useful short-term initiative to help companies cope with the changes to the economy, it may not prove to be so popular with employees, especially the longer it lasts.
As employers, we still have a duty of care towards our employees and while the legislation prevents furloughed employees from generating revenue, or providing any services to your organisation, it doesn’t prevent you from keeping in touch with them and helping them through this tough time.
And what’s even better, you have a whole suite of tools at your finger-tips with Microsoft 365 that can help you do this. You can even enable your account to give access to your non-traditionally office-based staff, so they can be kept in the loop too. Here are some ideas to get you going.
Get onto Yammer
If you don’t already have Yammer for your enterprise, now is the time to launch it. The enterprise social network allows you to share content with all members of your organisation, and crucially allows them to respond and be part of the conversation. Having a two-way tool at your fingertips now will prove to be invaluable, and help you stay in touch with employees on furlough, as well as those still working. You can even create groups specifically for those who are on the scheme and direct content to them this way.
Hold weekly YamJams
Invite your CEO or senior leaders to give an update to the company via a YamJam. This will allow people to ask questions and be part of the conversation in a next format, so they can participate or just sit back and take it all in. Knowing there is an open and transparent forum happening regularly in your organisation will give people comfort that you are taking them and their situation seriously.
Microsoft 365 and Teams
Have you considered setting up a channel on Teams for furloughed employees? You could run regular video chat meetings with them here and then develop content specifically for them, with links to organisational documents stored in SharePoint. Also consider giving staff a space for social conversations with the team so they can keep up to date with one another.
Create a comms cadence
Although many of us bemoan living our lives to a schedule, we actually really miss it when its gone. So many people find having a regular slot in their diary quite comforting especially when everything else is upside down. Consider creating a 30 minute coffee catch up with your team every day. Or how about a Wellness Wednesday group yoga session, Friday drinks or an after hours quiz night? There are loads of ways you can keep people engaged and entertained virtually, and of course attendance is optional.
And remember, content is king
As with any platform, people only use it if the content is relevant and pertinent to them. Ask your furloughed employees what they’d like to hear from you. Perhaps they want company updates or to know when and how they’ll return to work. Maybe they want ideas for how they could be spending their time and are interested in learning news skills or exploring new ideas. Listen to their thoughts, and shape your content accordingly. There are loads of resources out there and experts who are only too willing to help you navigate this tricky time, so ask for help.
And if you do nothing else, pick up the phone and say hi. Knowing that you cared and showed them your support during this difficult time will ensure they are there and raring to go when you re-open your doors.
Stay safe, and if there is anything we can do to help you talk to your people with Microsoft 365, please let us know.