It’s always been shit to lose your job, but to be made redundant via a zoom call scheduled 30 minutes prior, it feels even worse.
Like many, I’ve suffered at the hands of the coronavirus epidemic. I lost my dream job, one that took four interviews and a lot of hard work to achieve, within the space of 7 minutes and 30 seconds, the length of my redundancy call.
I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting it, I had been in my role less than one year and worked in one of the hardest-hit industries, travel and tourism. My employer, a small-group adventure travel company, was no exception to the impact of COVID-19 and had to make some difficult decisions to survive.
My redundancy call happened five days before the UK government announced their plans for a coronavirus job retention scheme. Unfortunately, my initial request to be furloughed was denied, however after three weeks and some divine intervention, I was placed on furlough and was so, up until August 31st.
So what’s it like to be furloughed? In short, not all that it’s cracked up to be.
I’ve never been without a job. At the age of 14, I had a paper round. Each morning before school, I would cycle around my neighbourhood, delivering news hot off the press. I worked weekends in retail up until the age of 17, when I got my first full-time job. Now, suddenly, and for the first time, I was without a job. In the time that it takes to load a dishwasher, I not only lost my job, but I lost my routine, my community and a bit of myself.
I knew keeping busy would help and so I threw myself into reinventing my CV. Within two days of being made redundant, I had a CV that I was proud to call my own. I then began the tedious task of looking for a job, but unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one. As the UK entered a full-scale lockdown, companies unsure of their future began to make large scale redundancies. The few companies that were recruiting started to receive hundreds of applications for just one role. The quality of applicants was high, and so employers could afford to be picky.
The new reality of staying home, with no set routine, and the radio silence that I was receiving from potential employers had a real impact on my mental health. I found myself waking up late, not wanting to get out of bed. I napped regularly, even though I wasn’t tired. It was just a way of passing the time. I was worried about money, how would I pay my bills? I hated not knowing what each day would bring, but I had no motivation to do anything. When I look back now, I know that I was depressed. I felt like a failure; I felt that there must have been something more or something better I could have done. In reality, there wasn’t. I wasn’t made redundant because of something I had done wrong. It wasn’t me or my work ethic. It was a virus.
At this time, my request for furlough status was denied. The hours turned into days and days turned into weeks. I had already completed an online course in digital marketing, and although I felt some sort of accomplishment at this, I needed something more structured. I reached out to my network of friends and family and asked if anyone knew of any jobs locally. Two weeks later, I had given up on the possibility of finding anything when I found a note under my door. My neighbour, manager of a local Sainsbury’s, let me know that he had an opening for an Online Assistant. Twelve hours a week, 2 am – 6 am. Although the hours were ungodly, I jumped at the chance of having a purpose – helping to feed the nation – as well as a routine.
To start, it wasn’t easy. Although I was only working four hours a day three days a week, (a stark contrast to 12 hours day, five days a week), it took a while for me to find a good work/life balance, let alone a manageable sleeping pattern. I persisted, and I found a routine that worked for me. Five months and approximately 40,000 items picked later; I’ve been offered a permanent, 16-hour contract at Sainsbury’s. To say that this job saved my life is a little dramatic, however, to an extent, it’s true. Sainsbury’s gave me a purpose when I didn’t have one, and for that, I’m so grateful.
I’ve seen many meme’s and posts on social media poking fun at those on furlough, and in theory, yes it sounds great. You get paid 80% of your wage to stay home, but people face other challenges, and it’s important that we, as friends and family members, recognise this and support those that we love.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. Mind, the mental health charity is there to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. If you need non-urgent information about mental health support and services that may be available to you, you can call their infoline on 0300 123 3393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.