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How to Plan a Furlough


Many companies face difficulties with variable work demand. Whether winter or summer is a busy season, many companies struggle with differing demands, requiring different staffing during periods of the year.

One solution that companies have used to offset the extremely slow times is to have a planned furlough for shiftworkers. Giving shiftworkers advance notice, scheduling the furlough at the right time, and providing adequate information can mean the difference between employee acceptance and high turnover.

Here are some tips to make sure a planned furlough goes smoothly:

  • Time it well. Identify the optimal time for shut down based on customer orders and demand. The local management of one organization we worked with planned the furlough for a time when employees would want some time off such as a holiday – that way, employees wouldn’t feel as much of an impact on their daily lives.
  • Communicate with your employees. It’s crucial to communicate and abide by the date and length of the furlough as early as possible. This helps employees both plan how to use this time in advance (e.g. take a vacation) and prepare financially for the time-off (e.g. put aside money, or examine unemployment/furlough benefits).
  • Prepare to resume operations. Make sure employees don’t just drop back into their old jobs. After several weeks or months off, there may be some retraining necessary. One company we worked with decided to ask for volunteers to come back a few days early to get things up and running again so that at the end of the furlough, they could get a running start. So far, they have never had a problem recruiting volunteers for the prep work.

Indeed, many companies find that a regular shutdown is something employees expect and occasionally even look forward to during the year, and assists management in the challenge of keeping the company afloat even in the slow times of the year - without bearing the full financial payroll burden.

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