Maintaining motivation as a furloughed employee

  • Updated May 7th 2020

As I write this, the world is in the middle of a pandemic. COVID-19 has impacted the global economy, forcing many UK businesses to furlough large portions of their workforce. How can furloughed employeees in tech make the most of this time to stay sane, happy and productive?

I have been furloughed for 1 month and I am currently scheduled to return to work in another two month’s time. Throughout this period I have experienced some difficulty adjusting to the new situation that I have found myself in. However, there are a few things that I have been able to maintain throughout this period that I would like to share.

Routine

I had suddenly lost my routine. Monday to Friday, I would no longer be required to wake at 6:30 AM and start preparing for an 8-hour working day. I was no longer part of an active team that required me to be in the office or available online at 9:00 AM.

My first decision was to enforce a similar routine to the one that I was used to before becoming furloughed. I set an alarm for 7:00 AM every weekday and my aim is to work on a project between 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM, giving myself an hour for lunch in between.

This continuity has been essential to maintaining that healthy work-life balance that I am used to. By keeping as many of the things that I can control constant, I have made the situation seem more natural.

Productivity

At first, I was excited at the prospect of having some time to explore areas within my role that I did not have the time to previously. I had a few unfinished side-projects that I wanted to complete and I had a list of web technologies that I wanted to learn about.

I have been able to rebuild my professional portfolio site using Gatsby JS and I have completed two side-projects. After finishing these projects, I noticed my motivation was beginning to fade. I find myself to be more of a kinesthetic learner in my profession so I needed a project to keep me engaged.

I started volunteering my services to projects that required help during the COVID-19 crisis. I found groups such as Code4Covid and Furlonteer who are collecting volunteers that want to help beat the pandemic through technology. You can find other groups across the web that are trying to achieve a similar task. I would recommend joining these groups to become inspired by some of their projects or to get involved in one.

Finally, I have started attending meet-ups. Most meet-ups are now taking place online, which means that you can attend meetings that you would not have previously travelled for. I am finding a lot of JavaScript related events on Meetup, but it has so much more to offer. The meetups on this site cover a wide range of topics and you should definitely have a look for yourself if you haven’t already.

Inspiration

Meetups are a great way to meet and talk to new people in your industry. By making new connections and discussing common interests, it can ignite that passion for new or existing projects that may have fallen flat during this period of isolation.

Ask your existing network if there is anything that you can do to help. If you have an existing network on LinkedIn (or another professional networking site), reach out and ask them if there are any opportunities that you can volunteer your services to. Don’t forget friends and family too. If they do not need your technical services, they may know someone that does.

Mental Health

This pandemic is having a profound effect on so many aspects of our lives. It is important to remain stable during this period by prioritising our own health and wellbeing.Work is an important part of our lives, however. As humans, we have an innate need to be needed and one of the ways that we fulfil this need is by working on projects where we feel we can make a difference.

There is a fine balance though, between work and living. The two must be balanced, and this has been highlighted to me during this period. It is why a routine can be so important to help maintain productivity. Stay connected to help you remain inspired but also, don’t forget to give yourself a day off.

Conclusion

These are strange times. While we all wait for some form of normality to resume, if you are furloughed like me, I think there are positives that we can take from this situation.

We can use this time to grow, personally and professionally. We should remember though, that growth should not be prioritised above our own health and wellbeing.

There are many negative aspects to the circumstances that we find ourselves in but there are also many that are positive. The best thing that we can do is to try and make the best of a bad situation, follow the government’s guidelines and stay healthy.


Have your circumstances changed due to the COVID-19 crisis? What things are you trying to do to get you through this period of isolation? I would love to hear about your experiences and anything that you can offer to help support those that are in a similar situation.



© Ian Holden 2020

“Saddle your horse. Shoulder your load. Burst at the seams. Be what you dream and then take to the road.” – Frank Turner