For many Americans, the shelter in place orders and economic shutdown brought layoffs and furloughs. While you may be left feeling isolated, concerned, and anxious, there are important things to do when you’re furloughed. Today, we’ll highlight three ways you can find your new way forward, and through, any furlough challenges you might be facing.
Understanding Your Situation & Options First
Every company affected by pandemic-imposed shutdowns has responded differently. So before you can make future plans, it’s essential that you inform yourself of what your furloughed situation means in your specific case.
Furloughed vs. Laid Off
The term itself has been tossed around quite a bit lately. But furlough can have different implications than traditional layoff situations. The first step is to identify what furlough means in your situation. A furlough for some may indicate a temporary hiatus in reporting to work. Other companies use the term furlough, but because of the financial impact COVID-19 conditions have had on their operations, they may not be able to bring every employee back to work as intended.
Your Employer’s Intentions for Furloughed Employees
Discuss your employer’s plans to bring back staff with your direct and human resources managers. You’ll want to make sure that you completely understand any options for continued health insurance coverage during your hiatus or other benefits. Some companies have leveraged the government-sponsored, Paycheck Protection Program loans to continue paying employees, despite furloughed conditions. Some companies have access to additional resources and information to help employees cope with not reporting to work as well.
Take Advantage of Unemployment Benefits if Applicable
In other scenarios, you may be in a position to collect unemployment benefits now and expect to resume working in the near future. For some employees, furloughed positions have turned into confirmed layoffs, meaning returning to work is not an option. Even if you’re only now finding out that you are being laid off, you can still apply for unemployment. While the federal government incentives might be expiring, you may still qualify for ongoing payments, or in some cases, backdated payments to cover the entire time you’ve been furloughed.
Prepare for the Worst
The next thing to do when you’re furloughed is to sit down and take a hard look at your current financial situation. You’ll want to put together a strategy that will allow you to plan for the worst-case scenario and sustain it in a way that keeps you moving forward. Waiting to see what happens next, whether it’s with your former employer or with the running out of benefits, will only leave you behind the eight-ball and at a disadvantage.
Start Your Job Search
Even if you expect to go back to your job in the future, now is an excellent time to take a look at new opportunities for work. There are thousands of companies within those industry segments that are considered essential businesses that are experiencing growth. If you’re ready for a change, life has provided you a reasonable timeline to explore new roles, about which you might be more passionate.
Revamp Your Resume
Chances are, if you’ve been with your current employer for any considerable amount of time, then your resume is probably outdated. One thing to do when you’re furloughed is dust off the old CV and get it updated with your latest work experiences. Even if you do end up going back to your job, having an updated resume will have you prepared for any future changes to your career trajectory.
Squaring Up Your Budget for Long Term Hiatus
Because furloughs don’t come with cookie-cutter timelines and definitions, there’s no way to know just how long you can expect to be part of one. It’s this unknown, along with any uncertainties you might have about returning to work at all, that make it an opportune time to square up your finances. Preparing for the worst means understanding your household and personal budgets. Cut any unnecessary spending and take advantage of any creditors or loans that offer COVID-19 related payment deferment programs. Rationing your expenditures can ensure you have the financial stamina to make it through a furlough period.
Spend a Little Time on Yourself
While being furloughed may have you feeling worried about what the next chapter will bring, there is a silver lining. For many people who have been forced to go home for a few weeks or months, there becomes an opportunity for self-improvement and self-care. Use the idle time you might have now to reflect on what matters most to you.
Health & Wellness
Now that you’re home, you have time to incorporate an afternoon walk or morning jog. Consider taking on an exercise regimen or a backyard basketball pickup game with the kids. Try to get creative in the kitchen and explore new healthy recipes. Getting organized around the home can provide mental relief and enforce a sense of accomplishment. All those things you maybe didn’t have time for before, can now be added to your to-do list, and with added health and wellness benefits.
Developing a New Skill
With your extra free time, you can now take time to explore new hobbies or find tools to develop a new skill. Maybe you wanted to learn a second language or always had the need to pick up the guitar. Now you have the schedule to accommodate dedicating time to something new. People can learn new job-related skills online or look for certification programs that might be worth adding to the resume. But even following a new passion that isn’t job-related, can offer mental and emotional rewards as well.
Home Improvement Projects
Being stuck at home and not working can leave you feeling bored or stir crazy. Home improvement projects are a great outlet worth exploring to keep your mind and hands busy. Start small and inexpensive, to be mindful of your tightened furlough budget, of course. But adding a fresh coat of paint on an old deck or reworking your landscaping a little, can leave you feeling accomplished and offer a more pleasant ‘home view’ from your furloughed position.
If you’re experiencing a furloughed period from your job, you still have options and opportunities. There are things to do when you’re furloughed, and you’ll notice many of the best advice involves maintaining your health and well-being during these uncertain times. The good news is you have a little extra time now as well, to explore your insurance and benefits options to ensure you aren’t caught without coverage. Times can be tough right now, especially for those who are forced away from the job. But sticking to a plan will help ensure you’re prepared for almost anything.