How to engage and motivate your furloughed staff

February 16, 2021

“Look after your staff first and the rest will follow” is a mantra of business but, with 83% of leaders in the hospitality sector having furloughed staff, ensuring that workforces continue to be engaged and motivated is just one of many hurdles that operators have encountered over the last year. 

Read on for four ways that will help you to keep employees engaged whilst lockdown endures and, ultimately, ensure a smooth return to work when the doors reopen.

  1. Continue communication, even if doors are shut

Don’t let your staff go for long periods of time without hearing from you and be as transparent and reassuring as possible. At Airship, we host a weekly stand-up on a Monday morning for the whole team where we run through the current state of play and chat as a group about what’s going on. It’s important that the conversation is two-way (although we appreciate that this can be hard on video call). As we all know, the situation is constantly changing and Government advice isn’t always easy to follow, so when new rules and restrictions come into force, make sure you’re updating your employees in clear and concise language (particularly if there is bad news on the horizon for the business - the last thing you want is your staff finding this out when they read the paper). Another way to ensure that communication hasn’t dried up within the team is to organise a virtual staff “night out” with a cocktail masterclass or a competition amongst employees, tying into a national day. Make sure birthdays and work anniversaries continue to be recognised, and you could also send wellbeing hampers or boxes of treats as a random act of kindness.

  1. Provide training

Keeping motivation up during the pandemic is difficult, but learning that leads towards career or personal development can be a big help. Furloughed staff are permitted to study, so it’s worth considering offering your team the opportunity to partake in training courses - and these don’t have to be expensive. As part of our Come Back Strong campaign, we're teaming up with some of the brightest brains in hospitality to deliver a series of free one-hour webinars every Thursday at 1pm to inspire your staff and provide training for those on furlough. The sessions confirmed so far will cover the key steps to ensure interaction with enquiries converts to bookings; the life cycle of a bill; how to unlock additional revenue through B2B channels; how reservation tech is responding to changing consumer behaviour; and pricing to avoid leaving money on the table. Watch this space for sessions in April and May on sustainability, branding, marketing and more.. 

  1. Introduce a ‘Welcome Back Pack’ 

When the doors are ready to reopen, consider creating a ‘Welcome Back Pack’ which, amongst other considerate items, includes a friends and family discount. Not only is it a nice perk for staff to share with their close ones, but having a friendly and familiar face pop in during the early days of reopening should make the transition easier for your employees and provide a nice boost to morale.

  1. Supporting staff mental health and wellbeing

For more immediate help, you can signpost your staff to various tools, resources and organisations. 

  • Hospitality Action has shared top tips for looking after your wellbeing during furlough, including creating a routine, facing the unknown and talking to those around you. They also offer emotional support, legal and financial advice to those working in the industry. Throughout the pandemic, we have donated 20% of revenue from our track and trace solution (trck.to) to Hospitality Action. 
  • The Mental Health Foundation has a mental health hub with lots of resources and tips for looking after your mental health during the pandemic. If you think a staff member is struggling with mental health you can direct them to one of several specialist organisations recommended by the NHS here.

#ComeBackStrong is a campaign from Airship and Toggle which is jam-packed with free support and resources for operators to make the most of whilst the sector is shuttered so they can be ready to come back swinging when the restrictions are lifted. Find out more here.