How to return furloughed staff to work

27 April 2020
I know that we’re only just getting used to working in an environment where we’re all working remotely and some of our colleagues are furloughed or working reduced hours, but for those of us in an operations planning role, we have to try and look beyond the present to a time when those missing colleagues return to the workplace.
Quite what that workplace looks like is still difficult to determine with the latest hints from government suggesting that social distancing will remain in place for the remainder of this calendar year. The likelihood is that most office workers will continue to work from home and factory and construction workers may be able to work in shifts to sufficiently reduce the number of people in a confined working space to maintain social distancing rules.

Whatever the mid-term workplace looks like, we are going to face the unusual prospect of reintroducing a substantial percentage of the workforce to our businesses. Usually this type of reintroduction is limited to a few people returning from paternity, maternity or long-term sick, but for some of our clients the reality is that as many as 70% of their workforce may be returning at the same time or at least in a short period of time.

That’s going to make it difficult to physically engage all returners and the likelihood is that working with groups of returners in close proximity is going to be frowned upon. So what to do? Clearly we’re going to have to turn to technology and this is where Microsoft Teams combined with ClearPeople’s Atlas digital workspace solution can deliver great benefits.

Any project work that has continued in the absence of the furloughed workers should have been maintained in Teams. This is great as there will be a full audit trail of every conversation and decision made in the employees’ absence. But… trying to work your way through such unstructured information is going to be hard and it will be all too easy to miss important nuances or details that are highly pertinent to the project’s current status.

Enter Atlas. One of the best features of Atlas as stated by our clients is ‘Mandatory Reads’. Imagine giving the project lead for each of your teams the task of summarising key points and providing links to important information in Teams for each of your key projects that furloughed workers will be engaged with. In Atlas we can make these summaries mandatory reads that appear as high priority items on each user’s home screen. Each user’s mandatory reads are personal to them, so you can blend important company operational information, such as changes to working practices to support social distancing, with project-specific information to greatly improve the efficiency with which returnees merge back into the organisation.

If that isn’t enough then Atlas also has a ‘Tour’ function that can guide returning employees through visual steps that explain new processes or operating procedures. Employees can return to the tour whenever they need to, which reinforces new practices and greatly reduces the strain on your busy HR and support teams whilst also making the returnees feel more engaged and supported.

And lastly, our Group Explorer add-on to Atlas fills the final gap. Despite our best efforts there will still be important information locked away in Teams. How do you find it? Group Explorer provides very flexible search tools to find Teams and conversations where you may not know the key words to search for but you know who was or wasn’t engaged in the Team, roughly when and some of the important topics being discussed. Group Explorer will highlight all the Teams and conversations that match your, however broad, criteria and help you refine your search. Time is saved and frustration greatly reduced.  And when there may be tens, hundreds or thousands of returnees all looking for important information at the same time, the impact on the rest of the team is massively reduced.

So if you have the headspace to start thinking about how you’re going to manage the return of your furloughed staff, why not ask for a demo of Atlas and see how we can avoid a lot of potential pain for you, your HR team, your managers and the colleagues of the returning employees and make their return to work something they enjoy rather than fear.

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