How Furloughs Can Affect Job Performance

Topic(s): job performance, stress, wellness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2013)
Article: The impact of furloughs on emotional exhaustion, self-rated performance, and recovery experiences
Authors: J.R.B. Halbesleben, A.R. Wheeler, S.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 (Halbesleben, Wheeler, & Paustian-Underdahl (2013), 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 and 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. This can result in some serious negative outcomes. It may benefit organizations to keep a close eye on the benefits and downsides of furloughing, as well as its overall effect on employee well-being.