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Making Remote Layoffs Suck Less

Over the past few weeks, remote layoffs have become more common than employers ever could have imagined. On a good day, layoffs are challenging. Right now, layoffs need to be done in large quantities, adhere to social distancing regulations, and take place during an economic downturn that already has many employees concerned for their family’s wellbeing.

Safe to say, employers are in a tough situation.


Customers, employees, investors, and everyone in between are on high alert. How companies respond to this crisis will define them for the considerable future. The impact of poorly handled layoffs is major, and can include:

  • Loss of key employees
  • Poor brand reputation
  • Loss of customers
  • Loss of revenue


With internet backlash for poorly handled layoffs in full swing, employers are left wondering:

 “What exactly is the right way?!”


Well, our goal has always been to make businesses more human. Although there is no perfect blueprint for handling COVID-19 layoffs, here are 5 ways to make remote layoffs suck less:


1. Use video conferencing


Remote layoffs are not the time for quick emails. Although it may feel like the efficient way to do things, efficiency shouldn’t be the only consideration when dealing with people’s livelihoods. We have the technology. If it is a group termination, a video conference is still an acceptable way to do the layoff provided you follow up individually as well (See #3).


2. Make a point to share real, honest information


We’ve all seen the news headlines. Employers laying people off with no more than a simple “Your position is terminated indefinitely.” This leaves people’s heads spinning.


We can’t always give employees all the information, but we can be honest about what caused the decision and what the future looks like. How did COVID-19 impact your business? Was it a loss of clients? A loss of sales? What options did you try? Do you plan to hire people back? What do you know for certain? What don’t you know? Sharing information will help shift blame off of you as an employer and toward the circumstances that are outside of your control.


3. Have a manager follow up right away


This is especially important for group terminations. There is nothing worse than feeling like a number when you lose your job. Have managers follow up with employees who are laid off via phone right away to provide more information (including showing gratitude for their contributions), answer questions, and offer support. This will also help you control the narrative as an employer.


4. Provide resources for employee benefit programs available


There are a lot of support programs in place right now to help employees who lose their jobs. Spend some time to put together a resource that outlines their financial support options and share it with them during the meeting. This will help provide some peace of mind and show that despite making difficult business decisions, you still care what happens to them.


Don’t feel like making your own resource? Check out these great ones online:

Federal Benefit Access Tool by DLA Piper

Covid Financial Supports by Bowinn Ma


5. Consider extending benefit coverage


If it’s financially feasible, offering benefits continuation for even just a month after the termination can go a long way. Now more than ever, Canadians need medical coverage.


Finally, try to follow your internal offboarding process much as possible. If employees usually share parting words with everyone via a team email from their manager, make sure this still happens. If you usually do a last day celebration, ask if they would like you to schedule a team video call. Things are far from normal right now, so every bit of normalcy for your team counts.



Is your team offboarding employees? Use our Remote Offboarding Checklist to make sure you don’t miss any critical steps, from information handover to equipment collection!

Looking for more support? Envol’s FREE Employers Guide to Layoffs is available. Check it out here.