2020 has been interesting to say the least. In January, I was two months into a promotion and doing extremely well in my market. I would never have thought that in April I would have been put on furlough, along with the rest of my team.

I live with two housemates, a Marketing Manager and a photographer who also didn’t see Coronavirus or furlough coming, but sure enough in early April, we had gone from traditional office work, to working remotely, to watching television in our pyjamas.

One of us was extremely nervous about job retention, let’s call her Lilly, while one of us felt hurt by the actions of the company, let’s call her Rose (we’re all flowers, get it?), and one of us felt safe, secure and happy on furlough. Guess which one I was?

You guessed right. DMJ had done it right, yet again.

To me there were some fundamental differences in the companies’ actions and reactions which led to us all feeling very differently about our ‘time off’ work and subsequently impacted our mental health differently throughout the months we were part of the job retention scheme.

It’s a story where the mistakes are all too familiar among many I have spoken to, one which left many people feeling isolated.

It’s impacted the way we see our companies and what we would accept and expect from management and their culture in any future struggles.

To me there were differences in our employers and managers in these main areas:

-         Announcing furlough

-         Communication (or lack thereof)

-         Security within the company

-         Support from the business

I will go into more detail of each of our individual experiences.

Announcing furlough:

My furlough began as ours all did, with some tears in a very confusing time. However, we had a company-wide zoom call to inform and reassure us of the situation. We were then contacted directly by line managers and were given the space to express how we felt and ask questions. We had time to give a full handover and I personally felt respected and like my work was in the best possible hands.

Lilly was told by a manager on a Friday moing that she would be not working from the end of the day while Rose saw her place of work was closing via an Instagram ‘live’ message from the company. She contacted her manager who confirmed the closure and furlough and discussed what that meant for her role.

They were both disheartened and spent their first weeks feeling undervalued while not even knowing if or how many others had been furloughed, leaving them to constantly wonder ‘why me?’

They both agreed they would rather work for a company, like mine, which gave them value and true communication. They could see that I felt valued and respected in this complicated time.

Communication (or lack thereof):

Our company encouraged the furloughed staff to keep talking to each other, organised quiz’s and group calls. We were given company-wide updates every 3 weeks as to the market and the organisation’s next steps.

My director called me almost every week, we discussed the lockdown puppies we both bought, the virus and most importantly, how we were feeling and coping. I could raise conces and questions without fear or judgement.

Lilly had a business wide zoom call in the first month where they announced the extending of furlough indefinitely. She sent a couple of emails asking for updates which went unanswered. The next time she heard from management (almost 3 months later) they asked her to start work the next Monday. The company had intentions to retain her employment, but she had been so uncertain in that she had been applying for other roles and worried endlessly. Unnecessary worry that could have been curtailed with simple consideration and communication.

Rose works for an establishment which is still closed and she has had next to no contact with management. She doesn’t know any more about her employment or her future with the company. She is distraught and has a constant feeling of unease. The difference between our three situations is palpable.

Security:

I believe that the communication and security go hand in hand. I know my managers, I spoke to them consistently and trusted that if my role were ever in question, I would be the first to know. Though this didn’t stop me worrying some of the time, the security offered to myself and the rest of the DMJ team through open dialog made us all feel safer and more valued.

Both Rose and Lilly applied for new roles because of how insecure their companies had made them feel. Both agree that they would move companies based on their furlough treatment and how insecure they were made to feel. They would now only want to work for a company which gave their staff the security they deserved throughout Covid-19.

Support:

Sometimes it’s the little things. I woke up to the postman handing me a box of chocolates from DMJ to thank us all for being so patient whilst on furlough. The thought alone would have been a kind gesture however, the fact that they had remembered that I was dairy free and sent nut-based chocolates meant far more. My flatmates were aghast – I did share, of course!

I was supported throughout furlough, I was even reimbursed for doing online training to keep my skill levels up and actively encouraged to do so.

My flatmates both participated in online courses for their skill-sets, but neither were allowed to expense and Rose was ignored when she asked about compensation.  

My recruitment firm supported me while a not-for-profit have led their star player into seeking a new position. Talk about ending stereotypes!

Many employees will look back upon this time as a crossroads and how they were treated during this crisis. Some will stay and some will leave but all will have a much better idea of how they are valued and how their employer’s value their staff in general.

Not that I ever needed convincing of DMJ’s outstanding culture, they have now supported me in two life altering events within 10 months. (Take a look at my posts earlier this year for clarity) My colleagues and I have felt supported and valued throughout a very trying time for everyone.

Both my furlough friends are looking to move on from their employers and are actively looking despite one of them working full time for a company which is doing well amounts the pandemic. 

It is crucial to look out for yourself, especially if your employers do not. We deserve to be treated as we would treat others, with respect and communication throughout. If your company didn’t offer you or their furloughed staff that decency, I would urge you to consider alteative employment. Having been able to see both sides of the coin, I cannot stress how much more positive I feel about my employment than my flatmates.  

At DMJ, we know what makes a good employer, we have one. Any member of the DMJ team is happy to discuss experience and company culture with you, should you be considering a move.

Poppy Taylor - poppy@dmjcosec.com 02030 588 005  

Posted 20/08/2020 By Tom Wilde

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