Hands up if anyone else is on furlough and has had a few low days? Everyone, right? What about feeling guilty because things could be so much worse? OR like you’re wasting the time off work that you always wish you had to get on with other projects? You too?
While things may be starting to get back to normal, whatever that will be now, there are still some people struggling with being furloughed from work. Some have managed to spend the time quite productively, but others have not had the chance or haven’t faired as well mentally throughout their time off.
One thing that concerns me personally is other people’s attitudes towards those on furlough. As if it was anybody’s choice to be deemed a non-essential worker that has taken a 20% wage reduction for 3 months plus! Some people who have continued to work, for which I and I’m sure most people are grateful, think this has been an extended holiday. That may be the case for some, but there are a few ways in which furlough has been really difficult for others.
Some people struggle to make ends meet even on 100% of their pay. The people using it as a holiday are the ones fortunate enough to be able to take a 20% reduction without major repercussions. It’s pretty insensitive to assume everyone is as well off as you are, or has the same outgoings that you do.
Some people have been hit really hard by being put on furlough, and have more outgoings than usual with children home more often, etc. Others cannot afford their bills. Some people’s entire food and basic living budget is within that 20%. Losing a fifth of your money is better than losing your job, but it’s just the lesser of two evils for some.
Mental Health Issues
Usually routine can create some semblance of normality and a reason to get out of bed in the mornings for those struggling with their mental health. I have spoken to many that have had issues throughout their furloughed time. Some cannot manage to fend off issues without external assistance. Waking up with a purpose is always helpful, and for those without indoor hobbies or those that are living alone and feeling even more isolated than usual, it can be difficult to get through the day, let alone months.
As above, some people don’t actually have hobbies. However, even if you do, a lot of hobbies have not been available throughout furlough and in some places are still not as they were. For example, not being able to go to the gym can severely affect mental health and leave people feeling physically unhealthy.
Hobbies often involve other people and having to push yourself through activities, but without schedules, it’s likely much more difficult to give yourself the motivation you need to keep it up in a safe or isolated way. Some hobbies are completely social and haven’t been allowed for months, leaving people bored, isolated and feeling lost.
Those in relationships have been feeling the strain of being at home 24/7 with the people they love. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, it can still be difficult when you can’t get any space from them. Moods are more volatile when you can’t have your own space. Those in partnerships are having to get used to being around each other more than they ever have before.
It seems to have been a make or break period for most relationships. People are having to resolve things that may once have been ignored or are spending more quality time getting to know each other even more deeply. Either way, relationships have been tested throughout and from just some stories I’ve heard personally, it’s been an insightful time.
Domestic violence reports have increased, which shows another factor that may not have been thought of. You may think doesn’t affect anybody you speak to, but it’s unlikely it will come out in standard conversation. It’s important to be mindful of people who have had no escape for months, from their partners, or other difficult or abusive family members.
Oh, dear children. So sweet, so cute, so adorable, so clever. Until you have them day in, day out, no babysitters, no school, no sending off to Nan’s house. While people know that children can be difficult, this has been something completely different. It’s been difficult for adults to keep social, but for children it’s even harder. Them calling a friend isn’t quite the same. Some children haven’t been able to play with any others, see their family members, and so on. While they’ve likely been little horrors at times, people have to consider that it’s hard for them too.
One great thing to come from this is being able to spend more quality time with children. However, I’m pretty sure there will be celebrations when some get back to school!
New mothers may also struggle without having the usual family support or groups that allow them to socialise with others in their position.
While we have all been affected in some way by the Covid-19 virus, some people have had more extreme fear. Most have been worried and cautious throughout, but some people, especially those being told to shield, have been even more troubled by the worry of catching a virus that could be fatal. The stress on top of the financial and relationship difficulties can create illness in itself. It’s important to recognise that some people may not be having the time of their lives while on furlough.
Isolation and Loneliness
Some are having quality family time. However, some people live completely alone and have not had proper company in months. Some live away from family and have not been able to visit even after the rules changed.
Loneliness can cause mental strain on even the biggest introverts. Suicide rates have reportedly risen throughout the pandemic and was already a growing issue.
For social people, there is another struggle. Entertaining yourself without friends or being able to share stories in your local pub can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing (yeah, yeah, so can beer).
If you still cannot visit people due to living too far away, staying in quarantine or having to shield, find some ways to stay connected here.
Furlough Is Not A Holiday
I’ve heard people refer to furlough as a holiday so many times, but what kind of holiday involves sitting in your house all day, allowed out for one hour for some form of exercise, having to speak to people when you can catch them on the phone only, and only being allowed to eat food by yourself in one place.
That sounds a little more like prison than a holiday. At least not one I’d like to go on!
Some people can’t even manage to walk for long, and as sitting on benches etc. wasn’t allowed for a while, not even a walk was feasible.
Is furlough really that bad though?
I bet some people reading this are thinking, ‘How hard can it be to sit on your sofa for months?’
I understand that people who have been working throughout, some risking themselves and their families, will likely think this is nothing much compared to what they have been through. However, I’m a firm believer that knowing another person’s struggles doesn’t negate your own. We all thrive in different settings and to appreciate and have empathy for what others are going through is what helps us have a balanced perspective.
So please, when you think it’s “alright for some” or “everyone has had a huge holiday”, take a moment to consider the reality for so many. People will likely play along because it’s easier, but remember to be kind either way.
For those still on furlough, there are plenty of activities that can help you practise self-care and keep your mind busy here.
Have you struggled with any of the above? Is there anything you’ve done to ensure that furlough is a bit easier for you?
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.