Josie Broadstock is founder of Warrington HR firm Altum.

Here she looks at the challenges of furlough for businesses and staff

Despite the consolation of beautiful spring weather, these are worrying, stressful, challenging times affecting every aspect of our lives.

Uncertainty is difficult to manage and so we are trying to provide as much free advice and guidance as we can to every business, large or small.

Last week I commented on the feedback that we had been receiving at Altum HR from our clients in managing the mixed emotions of staff who are still employed or have been furloughed.

My colleague, Tara has produced an excellent paper – available free on our website – which will help employers manage those complex issues.

The document addresses the myriad stressors affecting your workforce, how to deal best with them and ensure that the team will be ready to spring back into work once the lockdown restrictions are lifted. I will endeavour to cover part two of these considerations this week.

Change in itself is a huge cause of stress. We are, by nature, creatures of habit. The current isolation and working directives mean many staff are furloughed, or working from home and in very different ways, perhaps with different duties with new systems to manage. Let’s face it technology is a blessing and a curse.

As employers we need to recognise this and be supportive. Communication is key. Keep the office banter going. Ensure regular 121’s. Feedback, praise good work, empathise, be present. It is important to maintain the perception of routine, familiarity and business-as-usual, albeit in highly unusual circumstances.

Keeping the dialogue and communication running will also minimise the feelings of alienation and isolation that employees may be experiencing.

At Altum HR we are passionate about promoting the importance of good mental health in the workplace. Helping staff keep mentally fit during this period is just as - if not all the more – important.

Furloughed staff have time at their disposal. They face potential boredom, a lack of routine and a danger of over thinking issues which are out of their control.

Employers have a duty of care to uphold towards their staff in keeping them well. The correlation between good physical and mental health is proven and should be encouraged. Why not promote participating in some of the free fitness videos being posted daily? Perhaps schedule a Zoom lunch together. Encourage breaks away from the computer. Why not set up an informal What’s App group to share fitness ideas or healthy eating suggestions? In the UK most of us suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency which can affect mental health. It’s currently gorgeous weather so encourage your team to get into the sunshine and ‘safely’ soak up the Vitamin D from the sun.

And don’t forget the stress that finances cause. If staff are furloughed and need to adapt to only 80% of their salary, this can have a huge impact. Encourage an open dialogue and direct them to free resources, there are lots available. We have other suggestions and discuss these issues in greater detail in our paper on our website. It’s worth a read.

We are here for you to answer your questions. Pick up the phone, or email and one of the team will get back to you as soon as possible. We can also offer assistance in actively managing the issues for you and relieve the stress.

Thanks, and keep well,