What to do when furloughed
Many people working in the legal community have been furloughed over the past few weeks. Whilst some may be pleased to be paid to stay at home, others will struggle. For many of us, especially legal professionals, our job is closely linked with our sense of our own identity, and losing our daily purpose all of a sudden can be a real shock to the system.
Here are some tips on how to manage this difficult period and stay positive.
Don’t take it personally
Remember that a million people so far have been furloughed across all industries in the UK – this is not about you or your ability. Be kind to yourself and try limit any critical self-talk, this is an unprecedented situation and not a reflection of how much you are valued at work.
Plan for each day
Whilst it is tempting to lounge around on the sofa, more than a few days of this will soon impact your mood and mean that lockdown drags, and all the days blend into each other. It’s a good idea to get up and dressed and have a loose plan for the day, whether that’s doing some DIY, gardening, or sorting out old photos. This will give you a sense of structure, a feeling of achievement, and help you stay positive - meaning your lounge on the sofa time will feel like a pleasant reward.
Look after yourself
Sleeping well, eating right and staying active are so important for our mental wellbeing so try not to let these things slide. Being on furlough is a good time to start healthy habits in these areas as you have the time to experiment with making new recipes, starting an online exercise class and getting 8 hours sleep.
It’s easy to let our thoughts spiral out of control at this time. When will lockdown end? Will I still have a job to go to? Try your best to focus on the present moment, the here and now. Anxiety develops when we obsess about the past or the future. You could try mindfulness to stay calm, or the 3-3-3 exercise– notice three things you can see, you can hear and finally move three parts of your body to stay present.
Get your finances in order
It may be a tricky time financially for many, especially if you are not on full salary during furlough. Now is a good time to look at your outgoings and make a budget for the next few months. You’ll likely be saving money in some areas in lockdown and you could also look at a mortgage holiday, contact the council to put a hold on your council tax, and use price comparison sites to find cheaper utilities and insurance providers.
You might like to think about what training/upskilling you can do during this time – either professionally or personally. There are plenty of online courses out there, many of which are free to access and your HR team at work might be able to point you in the direction of useful resources. You might like to sign up for Fit for Law, LawCare’s free learning resource on emotional competence and professional resilience for legal professionals. It’s also a good time to update your CV and Linkedin page.
You might find it useful to use the time to network with colleagues, or former colleagues. Perhaps set up a weekly zoom call with others on furlough, seek out connections on social media, join in with any online social activities organised by work. It’s always helpful to speak to others in the same boat, and to stay in the loop with what’s happening at work and in the profession more widely.
Look into volunteering
You can volunteer whilst on furlough as long as you are abiding by public health guidance and not providing a service or generating revenue for your organisation or a linked organisation. You could look into pro bono work or look for opportunities locally, volunteering to help with people’s shopping or calling vulnerable people to keep their spirits up for example. Visit do-it.org to find opportunities near you.
Now is a great time to reflect on life. What was making you happy before lockdown? What wasn’t? Do you miss your job? What are you enjoying about being in furlough and how could you incorporate some of those things when you go back to work? What would you like to change? A forced break from work sometimes gives us new perspective on what we’d like to do in the future.
You are still employed by your company so you can still access any support available to staff such as Employee Assistance Programme s (EAP). Have a look on the intranet or in the staff handbook to make sure you know about all the options available to you. You can also contact LawCare for support, information and resources.
If you are finding things difficult and need to talk, LawCare can help. We provide emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their families. You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email us at [email protected] or access webchat and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk