Furlough has been a lifeline for many small employers – for some, even making the difference between surviving and going under.  The ending of the scheme presents some very difficult decisions – but might it also create a unique opportunity for employers and employees to take a shared approach to rebuilding for future success?

It is clear that going forward the workplace will be a very different place for many organisations with increased remote working looking like being a permanent feature of the ‘new normal’. The lockdown has also forced us to try out ways of communicating that we would have previously ‘avoided like the plague’ - yet many are reporting that they have discovered more cost-effective ways of doing business.

Perhaps this is a once in a blue moon opportunity to re-assess our ways of working and press the reset button on our previous workplace culture; a chance to reappraise our strengths and weaknesses and develop new approaches. You may have already discovered the positives that can be tapped into when employees are really prepared to get behind their company and put in extra commitment to help it succeed. New ways of operating require new policies and procedures – and a new buy-in from all concerned. This could be an ideal time to consider how we communicate with staff to engage them in this new thinking – and support their well-being as they work through the stresses and strains of it all.

Of course, an enormous post-furlough elephant in the room is the ‘big R’. Redundancy is a loss for businesses and employees alike. It is expensive and often means parting with your most valuable assets that have seen substantial investment since your careful recruitment process. The recently announced ‘Job Support Scheme’ offers a further period of respite for employers where viable jobs are operating on reduced hours. Some businesses are also looking at alternatives such as:

  • Reduced salaries - pay cuts that can be topped up depending upon company performance.
  • Retraining/skills development – development of new skills as the business pivots its offer and finds its needs change – along with its cost base.
  • Secondment to local companies that might benefit from the temporary 'loan' of skilled staff.
  • Outsourcing - where employees move to freelance arrangements or employers contract out part of the business.

Even if redundancy proves to be the only viable option, there are still ways of showing genuine concern for valued employees. Professional support for individuals who are departing the business can be a really positive way of supporting these staff. Career specialists/coaches can help with CVs and applications, offer feedback on mock interviews and presentations and generally be there as critical friends and motivators.

Retraining or access to skills development could also be useful when wanting to demonstrate genuine concern to ensure that positive steps are taken to move forward – whether helping carve a new pathway or indeed helping the business change direction.

With the development of NBSL’s latest fully funded skills development programme, open to any individual or business in Northumberland, Newcastle Upon Tyne and North Tyneside staff can take advantage of fully funded skills development in areas including sales, marketing, financial control and process improvement.  Better Business Skills, now available is also a useful programme to access providing a supportive – and real – way of helping your staff.

Clearly, all options need to be carefully thought through and professional advice sought before presenting them to employees. With the right support every business can find the solutions that will help them and their staff to navigate the future.

Article by Tony Sacco and Melanie Bear of Thrive.

Contact Tony on 07896096747 or Melanie on 07855585093 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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