Job loss often ranks among the highest in stress on a list of life-altering events such as a death in the family, divorce, and serious illness. It can have a profound effect on the well-being of your employees. But uncertainty that comes with being furloughed and not knowing if you’ll be asked to return to work is proving to be even worse for employees' mental health. What you say to employees during a crisis will affect your ability to retain or rehire them in the future.
New data is indicating that your furloughed employees are suffering grief levels equivalent to the death of a loved one. The new stats come from Qualtrics, a firm that helps companies manage employee experience, and which has already conducted one piece of research on workers’ mental health since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Surprisingly, people who were furloughed - kept on as employees but usually without work or pay - reported bigger declines in mental health since the start of the pandemic than most other groups. Of furloughed workers, almost 67% said they had felt a decline in their mental health since the outbreak began, compared to 48.5% of laid off employees, and 44% of remote workers. Despite the anxiety levels, it is imperative for employers to build trust and loyalty among furloughed employees through effective crisis communications.
Clarity of communication can go a long way toward alleviating furloughed employees’ concerns, and a lack of it can exacerbate an already stressful situation. ”Those who lack clear expectations are 51% more likely to feel less productive at home,” Qualtrics noted in a blog post. “Newly remote workers who don’t receive clear expectations from managers are twice as likely to feel anxiety since working at home than those whose managers do provide clear expectations.” From the employer’s point of view, the furloughs were essential to help them survive an unprecedented economic downturn. However, employees only know their own suffering and may lack the perspective of the often painful decisions business owners are making unless clearly communicated. Companies are working on the assumption that the economy will re-open and many want to retain the talent their operations need to come back, requiring the rehiring of furloughed employees and the return to the workplace of employees working remotely.
A crisis communications plan needs to address the anxieties of both furloughed and remote work employees. Employees who feel abandoned by an employer who fails to communicate effectively will bring their resentment back into the workplace. What do they need and want to hear?
Employees want to receive COVID-19 updates from their employers at least daily.
Updates on the potential date for a return to work.
Motivation to come back stronger than ever and words of encouragement and thankfulness for employees’ sacrifices in order to lessen anxiety and maintain strength of your company culture.
Without a robust communications plan, your business will suffer a perfect storm of an unhappy work culture, reduced productivity and high turnover reducing the likelihood of a strong recovery and increasing the chance the business will never recover. The time to communicate is now!
Contact us for information about your crisis communications plan