Does a Job Furlough Affect Performance?

Topic(s): job performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2013)
Article: The impact of furloughs on emotional exhaustion, self-rated performance, and recovery experiences
Authors: Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben, Anthony R. Wheeler, and Samantha C. Paustian-Underdahl
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

A job furlough is when an employee is temporary laid off. For example, an employee who typically works five days a week is placed on furlough, and as a result, she is now only allowed to work four days per week. During the Great Recession of 2008, when companies sought ways to cut costs, furloughs became a popular technique. Since furloughs became so common, researchers Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben, Anthony R. Wheeler, and Samantha C. Paustian-Underdahl felt it important to understand the effects of furloughs on job performance. According to their results, the authors discovered that, in addition to the loss of salary, furloughs affected the emotions and job performance of the furloughed employees. When furloughed, employees became emotionally exhausted. Further, their performance declined. They were less able to complete assigned responsibilities and were more careless with company property.

In explaining this result, the authors discuss how job furloughs deplete an employee’s physical, mental, and emotional resources. Additionally they argue that furloughing triggers an accelerating loss of these intangible resources. Combined with the shift in how employees use what their resources they do have, this can result in some serious negatives. Keeping a close eye on the benefits and downsides of furloughing, as well as its overall effects on the well-being of a company’s employees, may be in order.