Mental health | Furlough and layoffs 'bruising' wellbeing

Furlough and layoffs 'bruising' wellbeing

Throughout the pandemic, businesses announcing layoffs and employees being placed on the UK Government’s furlough scheme has consistently filled news headlines, which has led to a rise in unhappiness, stress and anxiety among workers.

With staff growing more and more concerned over the future of their jobs and whether they will have a role to return to once the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) comes to an end later this month, it’s no surprise to hear that employees’ mental health has been impacted.

In fact, new research from LinkedIn’s Glint has discovered that the actions of employers is having a marked effect on staff more than lockdown or remote working. In a snapshot study taken from a dataset of over seven million employee surveys from Glint’s customer base, 56% reported feeling less happy at work after seeing co-workers furloughed or laid off. 

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In addition, 50% claimed that furloughs and layoffs had impacted their workload, while 47% said that furloughs and layoffs had impacted their sense of belonging or community at work. Employer action is also being felt across the board, as 49% of respondents stated that they have a co-worker who has been furloughed or laid off.

'Bruising' wellbeing

Due to the high numbers of redundancies and furloughed staff, Steven Buck, Head of People Science, EMEA at Glint, said that it’s ‘natural’ for individuals to feel anxiety due to the 'bruising of redundancies', adding that to support staff and their mental wellbeing, employers should promote open dialogue and actively speak to employees about their concerns.

“After a bruising round of COVID-19 redundancies, it’s natural for people to feel heightened anxiety, uncertainty, and a loss of control,” he told HR Grapevine. “Conversations quickly rebuild trust, plus ensure prioritisation of work and goals, as well as reveal remaining issues, uncover resource needs, and give leads for remedial action.”

Buck also suggested that frequent goal setting can help staff to readjust to changes, while ongoing workplace learning can also make all the difference during these unusual times.

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At the beginning of the pandemic, Glint’s data found that overall happiness at work rose as businesses responded quickly to the needs of staff. However, this has since started to plateau and decline in some places as the pandemic wades on. With this in mind, Buck stated that HR leaders and employers now have a challenge on their hands to re-energise staff.

To get this back on track, he added: “Paying close attention to employee feedback and encouraging high-quality communications is critical. As we begin to envision our post-corona workplaces, we should make trust and employee empowerment central to our thinking around the employee experience. It’s only through a people-centric approach that your organisation and your people will thrive in today – and tomorrow’s – uncertain times.”

Offering support

During this time, it is crucial for HR leaders and employers to continue offering support to staff to help promote positive wellbeing, particularly when individuals are working alone at home. To make this possible, Pamela Shoesmith, Senior HRBP at Gazprom Energy, said that offering staff flexibility about their working situation will help aid this. She continued: “Giving employees choice and flexibility in their working situation is important, as this helps to build trust and allows them to work in a way that will facilitate productivity.”

In addition to this, she also supported Buck’s notion when it comes to open dialogue with employees, indicating that compassion is also essential to truly offer staff support. “We have to approach each other with compassion and really listen to each individual’s needs, coupled with an open dialogue and practical interventions. This compassion needs to be carried through from communications and interactions, to decision making,” Shoesmith concluded.

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