Furlough: The new F word

By James Potter, Managing Director, Superstructures

Only a month ago, if you had asked anyone what furlough meant, the response would probably have been a blank and quizzical look. Not so today, furlough has now become the new F word, or for some, the dreaded F word!
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Furlough: The new F word

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We are past the stage of deciding whether to furlough and the question is more about ‘how do we furlough responsibly?’

At Superstructures, we’re happy with our strategy and therefore we thought we’d be open about it so that our clients know how we’re tackling the crisis. It also may be of interest to those who are going through the same difficult process in their business.

We value every single member of our team immensely and therefore our main objective was to ensure that everyone felt that they were treated fairly. We want to emerge from COVID-19 with a full team, stronger than ever in terms of ability and team culture. Yet, we need to continue to operate at the highest level and look after the performance of the business.

The natural ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the financial support offered by the government was to furlough as many employees as quickly as possible. But we sat back, took stock and really thought about the medium to long term impact that our actions would have on our business when things got back to normal.

In short – we’ve currently opted to retain all our senior level staff. Here’s why:

Financial planning.

Before furloughing, we considered our profit and loss performance, as well as cashflow; not just now, but long after the crisis has passed. For instance, how will we perform with a reduced ‘product’ to sell, but with similar overheads? And what effect will furloughing staff have on the timeline for getting everything back to the same financial position we were in before COVID-19?  

Use the time wisely.

We have encouraged furloughed employees to use this time to develop themselves professionally. We are continuing to allow them access to our resources, such as software and our technical library and we are still allocating team leader resource to aid personal development.

Rebalance the workload.

Review objectively and reassign projects as and where you need to.

Look at individual skills and experience.

And, also consider personal circumstance. It’s not one size fits all. When deciding who to furlough, we didn’t just go for the highest paid employees – in fact we did the opposite. We considered the effect on the personal lives of our team, as well as the versatility, experience and diversity of the team left working.

Overcome the technical issues.

Before putting our team members on leave, we made sure there were no communication dead ends around email forwarding, autoresponders, phone layer protocols etc.

Understand the importance of communication.

We are using any media channels we can, on and offline, to promote that we’re open for business, that we’re maintaining great resource and ability and that we welcome new opportunities.

Get together virtually.

Whether furloughed or not, we have found opportunities to keep the team together as best we can. We have regular video calls to keep people updated, as well as having virtual social get-togethers over lunch or an evening drink.

How you treat your team now is incredibly important.

We have remained resolute that when furloughing employees, if done sympathetically and fairly, your team will emerge from this crisis stronger and more committed than ever.

Photo of Superstructures team taken by Friel

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