The Unfortunate Reality of Zoom Lay-Offs Part Three: Supporting Your Remaining Employees

In the first two parts of this series on laying off staff in a post-COVID environment, I looked at how to navigate the challenging task of remote lay-offs with sensitivity, as well as how to support your outgoing employees at this difficult time.

In the final article in the series, I’ll be focusing on your surviving employees and how to ensure they too receive the support and guidance they need following a round of remote lay-offs.

Why is it important to support your remaining employees after laying off staff?

Firstly, let’s consider the importance of proactively providing support to your surviving staff members following job losses, particularly amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic.

While you may initially think that employees who held on to their jobs would feel lucky or even happy about being spared, the fact is that avoiding lay-offs when those around you are losing their jobs can bring about a range of complex emotions.

Although many will feel relieved to hold on to their job, there is often significant guilt about the suffering of former colleagues. This ‘survivor guilt’ can have a huge impact on the mental health of remaining employees, as well as affecting productivity in the workplace:

Research revealed that following a lay-off, nearly three-quarters (74%) of retained employees saw their productivity decline, while 69% said the quality of their company’s product or service deteriorated.

So what measures can employers take to minimise the negative impact on their surviving staff and help them maintain output and focus at work following lay-offs? 

1. Be transparent and upfront about what’s happening

With so much fear and uncertainty arising from COVID-19, now is not the time to add to the confusion with vague statements or unclear information about how your organisation has been affected. 

Be open with remaining staff members about the reasons for the lay-offs, how your company is responding to the impact of COVID, and what you foresee happening in the near future. The more candid and upfront you can be about the situation, the less likely that rumours and gossip will spread through the ranks, leading to a heightened sense of uneasiness.

2. Communicate consistently and regularly

Following on from the point above, don’t just post an update immediately after the lay-offs and then stop communicating. Your employees know that the situation is likely to be changing on a regular basis, so keep them up-to-date on any developments to ensure they are being kept in the loop.

This could be achieved through a regular company newsletter, ongoing Zoom meetings at a specified time each week, or a regularly-updated internal blog that keeps staff members in the know. Even if employees are no longer physically in the office, it doesn’t mean you can’t maintain regular communication via remote channels.

3. Make contact simple and available

Aside from you communicating with your remaining employees, be aware that staff members may also want to reach out themselves with questions or concerns. It’s important to make this contact easily achievable so that employees feel supported and heard, especially if they’re no longer working in the office and may therefore feel more isolated and distant from the workplace.

Whether you make yourself the direct contact or appoint relevant staff members to the role, ensure that all employees know where to go for more information and who to reach out to should they need clarification or advice.

4. Be reassuring without overpromising

The key to COVID communications is to “keep it real”. Everyone knows that things are far from rosy right now, so attempting to ‘play things down’ or sugarcoat the truth will only be met with anger and frustration once the reality becomes apparent.

Treat your remaining employees with respect by taking an honest approach that doesn’t give false hope or overpromise. However, you can be realistic while still being reassuring by focusing on any positives and making it clear what the organisation is doing to protect against further disruption.

5. Demonstrate how you’re supporting outgoing employees

You can be sure that your surviving staff members will be watching closely how their former colleagues are treated on their way out. By showing your organisation’s commitment to supporting outgoing employees, you’ll send a clear message to remaining staff members that they too will be treated with fairness and dignity should they find themselves in the same situation.

Demonstrating practical support – such as by providing an outplacement program to outgoing staff members – can help to show your willingness to uphold your company values at every stage of the employee lifecycle, treating exiting staff with the respect they deserve.

To enable employers to support their outgoing employees in a COVID-19 environment, Career365 offers 100% online outplacement programs designed to help staff members who’ve been laid off in the wake of the global pandemic. To find out more about our online outplacement programs, visit www.career365.com.au 

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