Chances are, you’ve had to furlough some of (if not most of) your employees during the Coronavirus outbreak. And although furloughing isn’t easy for either the employer or the employee in question, there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel. Furloughing staff typically comes with the promise to rehire after some undetermined amount of time. And now, as some states look to open their restaurants and bars up, you may find yourself ready to bring back some of your furloughed staff. Aside from the legal and procedural steps that must be taken care of, bringing back furloughed staff isn’t exactly a ‘set it and forget it’ type of process. There are some things that could go wrong along the way. Today, we’re bringing you some handy tips on how to go about amicably rehiring your furloughed employees.
What Could Go Wrong?
First, we should point out the issues that can arise with rehiring your furloughed or laid-off staff. Although people will likely be happy to have their jobs back, there could be some resentment. Staff members could feel wronged by their employer -- cut loose in a time of need, and then welcomed back when convenient for the establishment. Although the situation may not be so simple from your point of view, it’s critical to empathize with any feelings your staff has.
Also, there’s a chance that your staff members may not even feel safe returning to work. In many places, we are only starting to see a decline in cases, so it’s reasonable to expect hesitation from staff to re-enter public spaces. Again -- it’s important to understand and empathize with the concerns of your staff here. So, without further adieu, here are a few ways to gracefully handle the concerns and issues which might arise when rehiring furloughed staff.
As with anything in our industry, communication is key. It’s crucial for your employees to understand what’s happening on a day-by-day basis as rehiring begins to happen. We suggest using e-mail or some other kind of virtual bulletin, to ensure that all employees are receiving constant updates about the ever-changing situation. Further, provide staff members with ample notice before expecting them back at work. In these trying times, everyone has their own sets of circumstances and personal needs. Like it or not, the safety of your employees and their family members is going to outweigh their desire to return to work. If you’re planning to re-open on Saturday, don’t wait until Friday to communicate that with employees.
Be Upfront in Regards to Workload
These communications need to be accurate and forthright. They shouldn’t leave anything up to interpretation, especially when it comes to how much work you’re expecting to give staff members. If you need to rehire for just one or two days per week, then be sure to let employees know that is the plan. Conversely, if you are going to expect staff to be available for a full 40-hour week, that’s also something of which they need to be made aware. In honesty, it’s unlikely that you will see typical business upon reopening, and so your staff should understand that their jobs may not be back to 100% capacity as of yet. While it probably isn’t what they want to hear, it’s better than promising one thing and delivering another.
This is a new thing for all of us -- not in any of our lifetimes have we seen restaurants close like they are, and then reopen after such an extended period. And as such, it’s important that we take things as they come. Avoid making any grand plans for your staff members, and perhaps avoid scheduling too far in advance. It’s important to adapt to the new Food + Bev landscape as it develops. Let your staff know that nothing is guaranteed as of yet and that the future may be somewhat uncertain for a while. Be flexible. Be patient. Your team will be better off for it.
Temper Your Expectations
In a recent blog post, we mentioned tempering your expectations for business as you come out of the crisis. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same goes for your expectations from employees. This pandemic has hit everyone differently, and some staff members may need to maintain certain precautions for the time being. What’s more, these staff members are by no means obligated to discuss their personal issues with you -- so this is going to take some faith on your part. When you initially communicate a reopening to furloughed staff, don’t expect a celebration. Instead, it’s likely that some staff may have reservations that keep them from getting too excited. For example, the F+B industry tends to employ a lot of young people. If an employee of your establishment lives with an older relative, they might feel hesitant to return to the front lines. Be prepared for this, and be flexible with such cases.
While you’re tempering your expectations (you are, right?), be sure not to overhire. This could result in even further furloughing of staff. And from an employee’s point of view, the only thing worse than being furloughed is being furloughed twice. It’s important that employees aren’t brought in excessively -- the results are going to be doubly harmful. First, you risk damaging the employee/employer relationship. Secondly, now is certainly not the time to excessively inflate your payroll. Very carefully consider each person that you are planning on rehiring. While it would be great to bring as many people back as possible, that might be to the long-term detriment of your business.
The reopening process was never going to be easy. There are a lot of moving pieces, and a whole lot of obstacles along the way. That being said, with some patience and adaptability, restaurants and bars can look towards a bright future on the other side of this whole thing. Stay safe!
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