We’re living in strange times at the moment, with each day throwing up new challenges, and having to search for new ways to deal with them.

One of the most-used words over the past week or so – aside from Coronavirus, isolation and quarantine – has been ‘furlough’. As a result of the economic uncertainty in the current climate, many firms have been granting their staff a semi-paid leave of absence to cover the COVID-19 period.

But, did you know there is lots to consider IT – and non-IT-wise – for both employers and employees throughout this process?

1) An ‘out of office’ email

One of the simplest – yet most effective – ways to help the furloughing process run as smoothly as possible, is to ensure the message is communicated with everyone who needs to know.

The easiest way to do this is by making sure that, before anyone goes off the grid work-wise, they’ve set up an ‘out-of-office’ message – clearly explaining the situation and, most importantly, who to contact in their absence. This way, no communication with clients is lost.

In the ‘automatic replies’ section of Outlook, or ‘vacation responder’ on Gmail, users are able to tailor their message – as well as the timeframe – allowing for full flexibility in these uncertain times.

2) Mailbox and forwarding rules

While some clients may simply forward the email they just sent to a furloughed employee, to the aforementioned nominated contact, the MD or another staff member they are already familiar with, some won’t.

Therefore, it’s vital that no email goes unread and dialogue can be continued where necessary. This can be done simply by sharing the absent person’s mailbox with another colleague – meaning they can log in and see all incoming correspondence.

Or, if you don’t want to share an entire inbox, there are email forwarding rules which can be set up, enabling any email received to be auto-forwarded to another colleague.

3) What about the phones?

As well as ensuring all email correspondence is redirected properly, there’s the matter of ensuring the same slick process happens with the phones too.

For instance, does the employee have a DDI – Direct Dial In – that allows callers to reach them immediately? If so, there’ll need to be an appropriate voicemail or redirection route established.

4) Their wider responsibilities

While one person’s job title may reflect what they do on the whole, it rarely incorporates all the admin – and often lifeblood tasks – that keep a company operating on a daily basis.

As a result, it’s crucial to think about what role each person plays within the team and get them to write a list of their core duties. This could be linked to end-of-month activity or even IT tasks such as changing daily backup tapes or liaising with your in-house/remote support team.

Business owners need to be aware of all the cogs which play a role in maintaining a smooth-running mechanism – and reallocate them to non-furloughed employees where required – so there are no nasty surprises further down the line.

5) Learning new skills

While under furlough employment law, employees can’t complete any work or training related to their place of work, it’s a good time for business owners to encourage furloughed workers to reinvest their time in some self-development.

At Q2Q, we’re big believers in reflection and taking time out to learn new things – or pursue a lifelong hobby – because it allows people to pick up extra knowledge and improve their confidence levels. So, while this one might not really be tech related, it’s definitely food for thought for business owners who like to invest in their people, and who want them to feel fulfilled and supported.

If you’d like to find out more about the tech implications of furloughed employees, feel free to get in contact with our remote-working team, because even when we’re in our own homes, we always have the kettle on and time for a chat!


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