7 ways to support the mental health of furloughed employees

May 18 to May 24 marks Mental Health Awareness Week. In response to the pressures of a global crisis, mental health has taken on even greater significance within the workplace. Unily is taking this opportunity to show how an employee experience platform can support the mental health of furloughed employees and ensure that people feel ready to return to work.

Happy and engaged furloughed employee at home

Furlough puts employee wellbeing at risk

One in seven people experience mental health problems in the workplace, 82% of which report that this negatively affects their work. Mental health problems in the US have been found to cost up to $193b annually in lost earnings.

Due to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Washington Post reports “a historic rise in mental health problems” as support hotlines in the US experienced a 1000% influx in calls.

Work can prove a valuable outlet for keeping the mind active and occupied, crucial to combatting mental health issues. Unfortunately, the millions of people around the world that find themselves furloughed are without this opportunity, so businesses with furloughed workforces now need to figure out ways to help people remain resilient throughout these testing times.

How to support furloughed employee wellness

Many enterprises neglect the impact that the digital employee experience has on wellbeing. In a digital age, technology makes up a large part of an employee’s interactions with your organization, especially now that many find themselves placed on furlough.

The dangers mental health issues pose to furloughed employees are two-fold. For people, feelings of isolation, fear, and anxiety severely detriment wellbeing. For employers, the reality that employees may not be in the right state to return to the workplace threatens your future.

To ensure that your furloughed employees still feel supported and ready to return to work, there are several steps you can take to underpin impactful mental health initiatives:

'How to fuel a positive culture for remote workers' guide flat pages


How to fuel a positive culture for remote workers

Even under normal working conditions, cultivating a positive culture is both a challenge and a priority. Remote work can add an additional layer of complexity because it’s more difficult for dispersed workforces to unite under one vision. Paired with proper strategy and open lines of communication, the right set of digital tools can fuel a positive culture that boosts employee satisfaction and encourages every user to reach peak performance.

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#1. Create a site for support resources

Anyone that’s struggled with mental health before will tell you how important it is to talk to someone. Confiding in a friend, family member, or colleague for advice – or even just as someone to listen – can be exactly what’s needed when self-doubt looms.

A dedicated mental health site with contact information for trained professionals, such as managers or a wellbeing ambassador, is a vital resource for people on furlough. By creating a site for people to seek help and advice, you’re providing a go-to hub for information, support, and the latest advice on dealing with mental health.

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#2. Start a dialogue with internal social networks 

Just as providing a digital home for support makes a big impact, a public space for open conversation is equally valuable. In combatting social isolation, just the ability to speak with colleagues and share experiences can be enough.

Whether it’s business as usual, working from home, or furlough, internal social networking features, including @mentions, hashtags, comments, and reactions, start dialogues and give people a place to socialize.

Unily social brings people together

#3. Don't allow people to disconnect

Furloughed employees can easily fall out of the loop, compounding feelings of isolation. Combatting disengagement among furloughed employees and supporting mental health demands technology that keeps people connected wherever they are.

A digital workplace optimized for mobile use, with a native mobile app and push notifications, helps reach those on furlough that have fallen out of touch. People experiencing a disconnect can be brought back into the fold by a timely push notification that cuts through the noise.

#4. Meaningful communications reach those in need

There’s nothing like a thoughtful message to remind people you care for them. Through times of crisis, people rely on internal communications more than ever, so reaching furloughed employees with targeted communications can have a big impact on their mental health.

Meaningful communications like newsletters, targeted content roundups, and personalized emails can have a profound impact on the mental health of those working remotely, as well as furloughed employees, reminding them that they are still a valued part of your organization and community.

#5. Keep people informed with frequent updates

With news and advice constantly developing and furloughed employees separated from the workplace, effectively distributing timely updates is crucial. Emails alone aren’t likely to reach everyone, so a multi-channel approach is a must.

Broadcast centers and news feeds offer repeated opportunities for informing people. Communicating across every available channel widens the reach of updates, while news feeds, hosted on a dedicated COVID-19 site, provide a central location for furloughed employees to monitor and stay up-to-date.


Unily crisis notification

#6. Employee recognition still matters

Just because furloughed employees aren’t working, that doesn’t mean you can’t still recognize the work they’ve done before, or work they’re doing behind the scenes to support colleagues.

People that remain active on social channels despite furlough, or who make a conscious effort to help colleagues through tough times, deserve recognition. Spotlighting their work with articles, profile badges, and kudos features are great ways of boosting morale, and shows people that you value their contribution.

Show you appreciate employees with recognition tools

#7. Launch initiatives that bring people together

Any internal communicator will tell you; company-wide initiatives are a great way of connecting people and starting a dialogue around mental health. Furloughed employees may not be able to participate in charity bake sales or office sports teams, but digital initiatives can be just as effective.

Unily, for example, has provided employees with 3D printers and started producing PPE for medical facilities in dire need. Other clients have launched groups that bring furloughed employees together for informal chats or encouraged people to share their experience throughout social distancing, helping to clear the taboo around mental health. Whatever form it takes, looking to your intranet to launch initiatives are an effective way of connecting and supporting furloughed employees.

An employee experience platform is the backbone of holistic support 

Supporting the mental health of furloughed employees requires a comprehensive approach; utilizing every angle and opportunity you have is key. To learn more about how an employee experience platform helps you build a supportive culture, speak to an expert today.

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