Supporting furloughed workers

Many workers in the UK will have been, or will be, placed on temporary leave or “furloughed” due to Covid-19. Mind’s Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes – Faye McGuinness – writes for Business Healthy about how employers can proactively support their employees’ mental wellbeing during this time.

“The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will cover 80 per cent of an employee’s wages, has been created to help avoid companies folding and mass redundancies. However, many furloughed employees may face serious challenges when it comes to managing their mental health.

Potential challenges

General challenges may be similar to those encountered while a person is unemployed, including:

  • a lack of structure to daily life
  • a lack of purpose and motivation
  • decreased self-worth
  • increased risk of mental health problems being triggered or existing conditions worsening.

Measures employed by the government to manage the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) may present additional challenges for furloughed employees. These may include:

  • financial concerns due to reduced income and fears their employer may go under or make them redundant
  • isolation and loneliness caused by social distancing and self-isolation
  • concern about their own health or that of loved ones
  • difficulty maintaining physical health
  • struggling with additional care responsibilities – looking after children or vulnerable relatives
  • feeling overwhelmed or a lack of control over the current situation.


So how can employers best continue to support their furloughed employees?

Be open

Be clear and open from the start about why you are furloughing employees. Ensure that non-furloughed employees also understand why some of their colleagues are being furloughed and they are not. Ensure all employees being furloughed are informed individually, with their line manager present, if possible.

Provide support

If you are already aware of any problems an employee has, including an existing health condition, a difficult home life or financial difficulties that may be made worse, give them details of local support groups, organisations or charities that may be able to help them. If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, remind employees being furloughed that they will still have access to this.

Discuss any personal or professional goals that the employee may want to focus on while they are furloughed, including learning new skills or potentially volunteering for a local support group.

Ensure that employees are aware of ways to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing while they are furloughed. Our advice can help with this.

Stay connected

There are several ways to help prevent furloughed employees feeling isolated and disconnected from the team. These include:

  • regular one-to-one wellbeing check-ins, ideally via video calls
  • virtual team catch-ups, where employees can connect with each other
  • enabling employees to keep in touch with each other day-to-day
  • keeping employees informed of any company developments

Plan ahead

The current situation will not last forever, so plan ahead for furloughed employees returning to work. Set up a return-to-work one-to-one in advance to discuss positive personal and professional steps that will support their return. Aim to make their first few days back in the office as smooth as possible, ask them how they’re feeling and reassure them they have time to get back up to speed within their role. This is similar approach to when an employee has been off work with a mental health problem.

The millions of workers being furloughed face many unique challenges. Why not take these steps today to help your furloughed employees stay afloat and mentally prepared for their return to work?”

There is a list of free resources that employees can access to develop and improve their digital skills and work from home more effectively and efficiently. View this list on the City of London Corporation website.

Xenia Koumi

Xenia is a Public Health Specialist at the City of London Corporation and leads the Business Healthy programme