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The furlough hack

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​According to BBC News, 9 million members of the UK workforce have been furloughed by their employer. New Homes, Estate Agency and Construction being the hardest hit in property. It is uncertain how long these employees will remain furloughed, and when office-based working will return to be the primary business model. What is certain, employers must rapidly adjust to new working conditions to retain talent and secure a successful future.

A furloughed employee is likely to face a number of challenges acclimatising to their new open schedule, particularly as restrictions on social distancing and leisure activities are firmly in place. It’s important for management to maintain regular communication similarly to non-furloughed employees, failing to do so could leave employees feeling deflated, unmotivated or with a wandering eye to other employment opportunities.

This article will explore how some of the property industry’s biggest brands have responded to the furlough scheme, tips for keeping your furloughed staff engaged and advice on how to furlough your employees effectively.

How the industry has responded

JLL confirmed that they will be putting employees on furlough and have chosen to top up the 80% salary substitute by the government for all staff affected. Furloughed staff will be granted access to online training, and senior management will host virtual internal conferences to ensure the team are informed of business activity.

St Modwen Properties are just one of the UK’s developers who have signed up to the government scheme. 200 employees have been placed on furlough, similar to JLL, and salaries will be normalised as members of the board will take a 20% pay cut.

In a similar vein, Knight Frank have actioned the furlough scheme in response to the COVID-19 crisis response thus providing employees with full remuneration. Salary reviews will take place for employees who earn above the minimum threshold and adjustments will be implemented; annual pay reviews are to be removed from the calendar.

As the pandemic worsens, other property firms have had to take similar actions to protect the future of the company. These include Cushman & Wakefield, Avison Young, Lambert Smith Hampton and Christie & Co; Savills, CBRE, Colliers International and Lunson Mitchenall.

How to keep your staff engaged

Stay in touch –Be available. Be responsive. Be visible. Furloughed staff are likely to feel less informed compared to their working colleagues, it’s important to diarise weekly meetings and one-on-one catch ups, notifying the employee on business updates. This is particularly vital if major changes are in the process; an internal weekly newsletter is a simple way for your entire company to stay connected and looped in.

Offer training – A large scale study conducted by MIT suggests that the optimal length of a training video should be no longer than 6 minutes. Using a platform like Zoom, enables an interactive element to the training session rather than a simple 2D approach allowing participants to stay engaged for longer. Zoom has the capacity to include ‘break out’ rooms where training groups can engage as a team, replicating physical training and thus offering a white board functionality. Staff upskilling should also be encouraged; Open University offers free training resources.

Social activities –Creating a unique and tailored culture which reflects your company’s values are hard to achieve. Managing a virtual office doesn’t equate to the loss of this hard work, there are several ways to maintain a bubbling culture such as: a virtual pub quiz, drinks and even lip sync battles.

Tips on how to furlough your staff effectively

deverellsmith Managing Director, James Campion, shares tips on how to furlough your staff effectively. 70% of deverellsmith’s London workforce have been furloughed and are now volunteering for the Do Some Good initiative, a community for real estate individuals whose mission is to support the NHS throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Watch the video to find out the challenges he was faced with, his solutions and the positives which have resulted from the scheme.

If you have any questions surrounding the furloughed scheme, you can view the government guidelines here.

We are not alone, as an industry we have proven to unite and come together to support one another. There is a team spirit that is being shared.