I haven’t been too vocal about being furloughed for six months, unfortunately due to feeling humiliated and embarrassed, as well as having bitterness to the entire situation. I returned to work at the beginning of this month and it’s been quite the adjustment. I learned to reframe my mindset after having a strict schedule of Bravo-bingeing and coffee shop sitting with the help of a clear-cut schedule and a three month plan.
Creating Structure: I went from a 60+ hour work week in July, to no work, to a little freelancing here and there to a 20-hour work week. So, thankfully, I’ve had more adjustment time to fall back into working before I go back full time in February. The hardest thing has been getting up at a certain time. I’ve kept an alarm going off so that I’m awake during my furlough but actually getting up and getting ready to be at my work-from-home desk has definitely been an adjustment. I’ve also been getting dressed and not staying in sweats or leggings all day, which is not something I was originally doing while working from home last year, which has truly helped me get in a productive state-of-mind.
Watch Your Mental Health: I was incredibly anxious the weekend before returning to work. As in, crying in the car and yelling at my fiance for no reason anxious. My life and the world has changed drastically over the last six months. I’ve traveled, I’ve fled the Portland fire, I’ve gotten engaged, my sister had a baby, we have a new president…it’s all different. My first week was really rough – going to meetings with people who weren’t furloughed made me sick to my stomach. All of the “welcome-back” emails sent me into a rage-filled fury. My motivation was nowhere to be found, to be completely honest. But, in order to protect my mental health and sanity, I found it helpful to take breaks and meditate for a few minutes, I exercised every evening since my body wasn’t used to sitting and staring at a screen for quite some time and I had meaningful and vulnerable conversations with my closest friends.
Communicate with your Manager: I met with my boss almost immediately after returning to work. During this meeting, I was able to discuss clear boundaries (especially only being paid for part-time work) and it really helped alleviate my fears about changes that occurred during my furlough. It also really helped me get back in the loop as much as possible. I also set up meetings with department heads that I directly interact with so that we could get back on the same page, which was super helpful and I can’t recommend enough.
Reassess Finances: The hardest thing about this time has been my income and budgeting. I went from a steady salary to six months of unemployment and am now facing 20 hours of pay (50% of that original salary) with a 20% pay cut. You read that right…I’m now still filing for unemployment and am being paid less than 70% of what I was making at this time last year. It’s truly nauseating some days. But! Budgets are made to be adjusted based on major life changes and I’ve had to be waaaaaay more flexible with my spending. I’ve learned to recreate a budget centered around essentials first, like rent/car payment/utilities, and then my debt repayment. I’ve had to limit date-nights with Garrett and utilize “coupons” like the Target Circle App. To be honest, my budget changes every single week and it’s stressful but I’m hopeful for the day I return to being able to save money again and splurge on the little things every now and then.
There’s no real answer on how to make it work for you, but each day has gotten a tiny bit easier. Just remember the importance of having a good support system near you and setting really strong boundaries at work.