My Experiences On Furlough

With the furlough scheme now extended until the end of October and many of us now away from the workplace for an extended period of time, I would like to share my experiences to date as a furloughed employee and offer a few tips that have helped me over the last few months.

Before Covid 19 many of us including myself had not even come across the word furlough and would never have expected as we started 2020 that we would find ourselves in this position. Things have moved at such a fast pace into a world where none of us have had previous experience. This makes it particularly hard to process what has happened, with nothing to draw on.

My first week of furlough was a strange week, feeling almost like I was on holiday but with the realisation it could be several months before I returned to work. I went from the structure, routine and security of my job to suddenly finding myself with no real purpose or routine.

Many of us will have experienced a range of emotions including being anxious, sad, angry to more positive emotions including relief.

I soon realised that for my mental health and to help with the range of emotions I felt, as well as my physical health I needed to add some structure back into my world. So, at the beginning of my second week I started setting the alarm clock in the morning, getting up showering and dressing with a purpose to my day. As I transition towards returning to work I will increase this mirroring more of a working week. This will allow my body and mind to get used to this routine and hours again.

I have also limited my exposure to social media feeds and news update. Looking at these throughout the day I soon realised made me feel more anxious with a situation I could not control. I now just look at these once a day and focus on the more trusted news sources

Creating two lists, one with household chores and maintenance tasks and the other with things I would like to do for my personal development has helped me. I have started to enjoy the time I now find I have to complete an ever-growing list of things that need doing around the house and garden. Had I not been furloughed some things would never have been completed. I also get a sense of achievement when at the end of the day I can cross items off my list.

It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to a slower pace of life and appreciate the gift of time at home. You also have the luxury of just relaxing some days when you don’t feel like doing much, enjoying quality time with the family or relaxing doing what you enjoy.

For your personal development there are many articles, YouTube seminars, Live webinars etc. on subjects that will be of interest, as well as a range of books and journals on various topics. Now is the ideal time to develop yourself and return to work with a far greater knowledge. Time has allowed me to access free online training on a range of different topics. Think about how you can integrate these new skills back into the workplace, whilst showcasing to your employer these additional skills.

I have enjoyed my daily exercise and have felt myself getting fitter over time. I need to build this time into my daily routine when I return. I have also found the same classes I attend at the gym available online, so have continued these at home, giving more structure. There is much documented about the benefits exercise can have on your mental health. Particularly in these uncertain and stressful times I do not want to lose the benefits exercise has brought me.

Humans are social beings and it is easy to become lonely or detached. Staying connected with people using technology is a good way to help with this. Connecting with your work team via a video call to catch up with everyone socially can help to ensure you do not become totally detached. Why not organise some online social events such as a quiz to bring people together.

Expanding your professional network through social media platforms such as LinkedIn are a good way of connected with like-minded individuals. I have found some good networking groups sharing useful articles and the opportunity to engage with others.

One consideration is how you quickly you can re-establish yourself again with the team and wider business on returning, particularly given you could still be working from home. Colleagues who have continued to work will have established a new norm of working from home. You may need to get used to this way of working again and it will be important to find out from your team how they have adjusted. They will have some valuable hints and tips they can share on their adjustment to remote working.

If you have not been in contact with your team whilst furloughed, I would suggest starting to re-establish some social contact again to ease you towards your return. Talk with them about how you are feeling and how they are coping and dealing with things on a daily basis.

We all have down days at this difficult time, and there will be worries and concerns that no one can take away. It is important to focus on the positive side of things, particularly if you are detached from your work and colleagues. My furlough period has given me time to reflect and has allowed me time to slow down, understanding the things that are important to me in life. I will return to the world of work again with a new appreciation of the smaller things in life that make a difference. I look forward to a time when the world can return to some normality, but also maintaining some of the positives that have come out of the pandemic.

If you would like to follow other articles by Mark Gray you can find him on Twitter: @markgray2305 or LinkedIn: markgrayfa

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