Life on Furlough Amid a Global Pandemic
Furlough life. The good, the bad and the ugly.
COVID-19 took the world by surprise, as it was something most people didn’t expect to occur in 2020. Travel, career progression and even marriage are just a few of the plans that COVID-19 disrupted for everyone across the globe.
It is safe to say this pandemic has affected ultimately everyone in some way, shape or form whether it be financially, mentally or physically (or all of the above). In the career sense there are a few categories people generally fall into:
- Employed as per usual but with rising demand and pressure
- Employed as per usual but lack of demand and rise in pressure
- Reduction in hours
- Reduction in salary
- Placed on furlough
- Loss of employment
Most people know someone in each or even several of these categories and we recognise none are ideal in the current climate.
In the UK, businesses have been fortunate enough to be offered the support of interest free business loans, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees, with the hope and view to avoid having to make difficult and drastic decisions in response to real time market changes. Although furlough is not an ideal situation for the employer or the employee, it can be taken in light of different aspects.
We gathered some feedback on how furlough has affected various workers in London; a usually busy and bustling city. When no longer working and the city is in lockdown, what do you do?
A shock to the system or welcome respite? Adjusting to life on furlough.
While there is uncertainty for many around when, or even if, they will be able to return to work, we spoke to people with varying degrees of job security, around how they are adjusting to life on furlough. For many, it is challenging adjusting from working full time and having a clear sense of purpose, to suddenly no longer working at all while losing structure and routine from their regular day to day. Meanwhile, others welcome the change as a much needed break from London working life.
“I have so much time on my hands, yet all the things I would normally fill in my days with are not an option right now. I’ve lost all structure to my day, which is fine, until I have to get back into the habit of working Monday to Friday again.
The second I switched my mindset from being anxious about being home most of the day and started to treat it more like a holiday, I started to feel a lot calmer about it. I took the pressure off of myself to come out of this as a new and improved me and to just get through it the best I could.” – Kristen H.
Going back to the grind. How do we prepare?
For those fortunate enough to be returning from furlough back to work, how do we prepare ourselves both mentally and physically? There are no hard and fast rules, as our approach to the transition is subjective to each individual and their specific circumstances. It might seem like common sense, but maintaining a positive mindset and fresh perspective when returning to the workforce will help the transition, as well as ensuring there is work-life balance, and differentiation between the two.
“Being furloughed has also been a good opportunity to reflect on things and hopefully everyone will re-enter the workforce with a fresh perspective. The biggest challenge of furlough for me has been living with a partner who is working from home full-time, and making sure I’m not a major distraction to her each day!” – Bob M.
Strength in community.
Perhaps now even more important than before, relationships (both at home and remotely) play a big part in how people are coping with life as they know it during the pandemic. Of course having your own personal support network is vital, but it is also beneficial to maintain workplace relationships throughout furlough to remain connected with colleagues and maintain that sense of work community, albeit virtually.
“Something unexpected I found to come out of my time on furlough was strength in relationships built with colleagues who I was no longer face to face with. We became each other’s rocks, checking in on one another’s welfare and being an ear to listen to through the ups and downs of lockdown. Coming into my 7th week of furlough I feel recharged, alert and ready to tackle what the new working life may look like.” – Jenny K.
Goals versus realities.
Although we generally have the best of intentions to make use of our newfound ‘spare time’ while on furlough, often we set ourselves up for failure by imposing unrealistic targets and putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to achieve great things! While it’s good to keep busy by re-establishing some form of structure in our day, and set goals to help our own productivity and sense of accomplishment, we need to cut ourselves some slack by ensuring the tasks and goals we set are in fact, realistic and achievable.
“At first when I thought of how my furlough would look I had big plans in mind of all the things I would be able to do and get done. I wanted to complete online courses, make arts and crafts, get into baking and make healthy meals to be able to start eating better. I thought I would get out and go for a run everyday, but I was wrong about most of this. Not setting an alarm for the morning is a great feeling but also means I don’t wake up until about 11am some days. Knowing I have nothing on means I don’t have much motivation to actually get out of bed which some days makes me feel worse!’ – Megan S.
Many have made light of the situation and taken a break from their usual busy London lives. It seems to be the common thought that this can be a time for improvement however it is a reality for most that taking each day at a time is the best option. It is safe to say that most will welcome back their normal schedules with open arms however it is a daunting thought on how this transition will go.
See our COVID-19 support page here for government resources regarding furlough for businesses and employees.
Take care, stay safe and stay positive!
Australasian Recruitment Company