I almost didn’t put pen to paper or fingers to iMac keyboard (as is the case) on this. Mostly held back by the feeling that being furloughed is a real privilege, not wanting to seem ungrateful or thankless to those colleagues keeping the business afloat continuing to work. So I’ll start by saying everyone’s opinion and perspective of their “lock down” experience is valued and valid so by no means do I wish to undermine those. My hope is that my musings and ruminations would bring encouragement and insight to those who might value them at this tricky juncture.
Being “Distinct” our Leadership Team were really keen to offer us 1-2-1 coaching during this time, working with Heather from the Hanover Centre I’ve been encouraged not only to write this blog (far too grand a title, it’s more like reading the diary of Adrian Mole – 36 ¾ ). Perhaps a little context from me to start would help, June 2020 represents my 16th year in recruitment. I graduated from Nottingham Trent in 2004, I had to take a day’s holiday to attend graduation as I had already started work in my first recruitment position. As a teenager I had three different jobs Bay Trading Company (although I fear some of my colleagues may never have heard of them) Boots (Victoria centre Sunday girl – brilliant job) and Beefeater pot wash. I have never been work shy quite the opposite so to be “put to pasture” for an unknown period of time has been utterly bizarre.
I have been isolating since the 16th of March when the Chief Medical Officer advised those who are clinically vulnerable to do so. Being pregnant (30 weeks at time of writing) that was a clear message for me (equally being hugely rule governed by nature) I have since not left the house for anything other than exercise (a four year old boxer dog who needs the walk as much as me), medical reasons (one midwife appointment and driving the husband to the hospital for a minor surgery). Despite a brief period working from home, work very kindly delivered my desk calendar, Mac and a chair, I have been furloughed since April the 1st.
One of the greatest opportunities of this season has been the gift of time. I live a very full life balancing precariously at times between work, family and church. My husband will be the first to tell you that I can be found dropping the ball between the three despite my innate preference to deliver in all of them. It has been remarkable how this time of slowing and solitude has positively impacted my wall planner (unless it’s on there is doesn’t count in our house). It has meant an opportunity to get so many of the little jobs done at home that I would never normally get to and a feeling of satisfaction that I can open the cupboard without various objects springing out to greet me! ?? My toddler despite my inherent lack of any play skills is seemingly living her best life having me at home to play, paint, colour and create on a daily basis. In life I believe it’s important to be thankful so I am genuinely grateful for all the benefits of having a busy life, stripped back has created.
Now…shall we look at the flip of the coin?
For me, not having got through the first chapter of Drive (Daniel Pink) since I purchased it months ago I have taken the opportunity to get on a read a bit more. It’s been really interesting (especially given the book was first published 10 years ago) to see that so much of the Psychologists assumptions about what really motivates us (me in particular) has been magnified in this season of furlough. Clearly reward based performance isn’t a platform I can access just now so that third drive – which Pink describes as “our innate need to direct our lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world” couldn’t be more obvious to me. Not working really hasn’t been about the financials, but the constant baking and trying to be the best parent, wife and housekeeper I can be is the most stretch my “drive” gets just now and it’s painful.
Some of the emotions I’ve really had to keep in check during this time of furlough (aside from the undulating fear and anxiety around the virus itself) is a feeling of low self-worth. It’s been very apparent how much of my identity is in my work, work that I love and (if you’ll forgive the moment of self-promotion) think I am actually very good at. Flip that on it’s head and I have found myself really at sea, fair to say that cleaning, caring and cooking are all things I am more than capable of but enjoyment in those tasks have been found lacking and that in itself backs up some of Harlow and Deci’s work. I’ve always commented that the spirit of comparison is one of the most powerful (not in a good way) traits we possess. Especially now I am battling that notion that people who aren’t furloughed (in my peer group socially I do seem to be the only one) or people returning from furlough earlier than me are more valued or simply better. Even when people ask "are you working from home", I reply quietly "I am currently furloughed" with almost a dip of my head.
The reality of my own situation is that whilst there is so much uncertainty in this time, I however have one certainty (with a due date of the 24th July) what my next big task is likely to be, getting my head around how work, furlough, covid-19 and health has been particularly complex and confusing. Like many of you, making decisions around childcare our own processing around nursery from the 1st of June was only the start of the complexities of the coming weeks and months as we adjust to the “new world”. Hourly I am still riding the “coronacoaster” of emotions however, my hope is that as we’ve “conversated” during this blog you’ll experience that familiar and encouraging sense of “I’m not the only one”.