The novel coronavirus has affected our lives in many ways. It’s not only a public health concern, but has had a major impact on the economy in North America. In the United States, about 701,000 Americans lost their jobs in March and there were as many as 130,000 layoffs in Canada as of the beginning of this month.
It’s possible that your company was forced to downsize, and you are experiencing the effects of working in an environment where a significant percentage of the workplace has been furloughed or laid off. On top of the stress of instability, you may be forced to take the jobs of your colleagues, and your productivity may decrease.
Don’t forget: this is all normal. And you can get through this. Just take it one step at a time.
Step 1: Know your definitions.
Knowledge is power. Sometimes, just knowing what these terms mean makes them a little less stressful.
Furlough: A furlough is a mandatory, temporary unpaid leave. People who get furloughed usually get to return to their job after. In general, people are not paid during furloughs but they do maintain a relationship with the employer and keep employment benefits, such as health insurance.
Layoff: A layoff is different from furlough because an employee is no longer with the company. An employer may let go of employees because they can no longer afford to pay them, their business is down, or other economic reasons—not necessarily because employees weren’t good at their jobs.
Temporary layoff (Canada): Temporary layoffs in Canada occur when business slows as a result of the pandemic. It is similar to furlough, and the employer-employee relationship is paused. Employers can call employees back to work at any time before the end of the statutory layoff period.
Step 2: Understand the very real stress of downsizing
Job loss affects everyone – the people who leave, and the people who stay.
It is known that mental health is tied to deprivation, poverty, inequality and other social and economic determinants of health. Economic crises are a very real threat to the mental well-being of people who are directly affected through downsizing, layoffs, or furloughs. Experiencing a downsizing or witnessing a mass layoff can be frightening and stressful, too. There’s a lot of uncertainty because you’re not sure about your job security and you’re worried about financial stability in tumultuous times. You may even experience increased stress as you try to take on more work while still coping with the sudden loss of your colleagues.
Step 3: Be kind to yourself and those around you.
We’re all in this together. Take it easy on yourself and others. Some things to keep in mind:
- What you’re feeling is normal. The loss of your coworkers’ jobs is a loss for you. These are colleagues you’ve seen around the office for a long time, and their absence will feel sudden. Acknowledge your emotions and try not to keep them bottled up.
- Be honest about your workload. Now that teams are smaller, you may be asked to take on more work. With so many layoffs, you may feel increased pressure to perform well. Be open with your managers and communicate honestly to manage expectations and capacity.
- Remember that your worth is not tied to your company. It’s easy to feel entirely defined by our jobs and our workplaces.Now might be a good time to work on some transferable skills and develop your self-esteem based on what you do and not necessarily where you do it.
- Don’t forget about your colleagues. At this point, they are also experiencing their own turmoil and challenges. Even the smallest act of kindness can have a positive impact on their day and boost your mood, too. Remember that you’re still able to have a positive impact outside of the workplace as well, and your efforts will go a long way.