The tide appears to be turning, there’s talk of getting back to work, ending the lock down and with it the furlough scheme. Its totally new, three months ago ‘furlough’ didn’t exist and neither did ‘furlough fear’.
How does it manifest?
- I won’t be needed any more
This is a big one. The fear that whilst furloughed the skills and expertise we bring have been supplied by others, indifferent ways or just found not to matter anymore.
- I’m no longer really part of the team
Whilst on furlough, knowing that business is continuing, strategic decisions are being made that you are not part of can feel isolating. We are hard wired to be safe as part of a group and are therefore left with a sense of vulnerability when we feel excluded.
- They will have found me out
Those already living and working with ‘Imposter Syndrome’ will find their anxieties have been magnified whilst on furlough. Common worries include;
‘they’ll find my mistakes’;
‘they’ll realise I’m not as good as everyone else’;
‘I never deserved my promotion’.
This is by no means an exhaustive list – please share within the comments others I have not included.
Fear is a healthy emotion, it keeps us safe, however when fear turns into prolonged anxiety it isn’t – taking a toll on both physical and mental health.
What’s the answer, what can I do?
- Talk to someone
Friend, fellow furloughed worker, colleague, coach, counsellor – it doesn’t matter, the important thing is to take the fear from inside your head to saying it out loud.
Examine the fear now you have described it – how true is it; how manageable is it; who can help; what actions can you take to check if it’s true?
Don’t try to just dismiss it – it will keep returning.
- Take physical exercise
Mental and physical health are linked, taking a walk may not solve a problem but it will improve your ability to think about it more cognitively and less emotionally.
- Take mental exercise
Games, puzzles, reading – anything that needs some focus and mental processing – start slowly, recognising when your mind has slipped back to unhelpful thoughts and bring it back. Don’t expect to forget your fear, this is not going to just happen, the aim is to maintain it at a safe level to prevent it becoming debilitating.
If you are in the position of having furloughed staff, then please be mindful of their anxieties, simple actions make a big difference and investing time now will smooth their transition back into work.
- Talk to them
They can’t be working but you can still check-in human to human. Important to make clear why you are calling otherwise they will assume it’s all about bad news.
- Be honest
You may have concerns about the future of your business, it’s unlikely you know all the answers; but if you leave a communication void this will be filled with their worst-case scenario.
- Invest in professional support
Furloughed workers cannot work but they can train and receive coaching. Recognise their anxieties and use this time to support them to be stronger and more prepared for returning to work.
Organise virtual team events and include your furloughed workers – building on getting to know each other as humans as well as colleagues will strengthen and increase collaboration within the team. An outside facilitator will ensure you maximise the value of time invested, their fresh eyes identifying where your team is strong and where to apply extra effort.
None of us know when or how the furlough scheme will end, but what is certain is that it will end, and we will be left once again in a situation that has not been experienced before. There is opportunity now to get ready, the words of Charles Darwin feel very apt.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin, British naturalist.