These are already uncertain times for us all, and with more than nine million of us expected to be placed on temporary leave or 'furloughed' due to coronavirus, this may create even greater challenges in relation to your mental health. It is therefore important to take care of your wellbeing during this time with support from your employer. For more information about furloughing, ACAS has put together this guide on furloughing for employees and employers.
Being furloughed might represent an opportunity for taking a break from working in challenging conditions but you may also face some other challenges during this time.
These may include feeling that daily life lacks structure or that you lack purpose and motivation. This could lead to a decrease in your levels of self-esteem and self-worth. In the short-term, you may have financial concerns due to your income being reduced or have longer-term fears of being made redundant.
Social distancing, self-isolation and not being in contact with your colleagues may increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. Having too much time to think about the current situation may be overwhelming and trigger new mental health problems or make existing ones worse. Alternatively, you may find yourself with less time and struggling with additional caring responsibilities if you are looking after children or vulnerable relatives.
Your employer may be able to help you to create a routine action plan to plan your time while on furlough. This can help you to identify any personal or professional goals that you may want to focus on and steps you can take to stay well.
It is important to keep in regular contact with your colleagues (whether they are also furloughed or not). With 60% of people saying that loneliness is currently making their mental health worse**, keeping in touch with your colleagues will help you feel more connected and less isolated
Consider teaming up with your workmates to achieve shared goals. This can give you something to work towards and help create a sense of community with your colleagues as well as being some fun to occupy your time. Think about setting a creative or physical challenge or starting a virtual book or film club.
Consider creating a budget, particularly if being furloughed means you have taken a cut in pay.
Financial concerns can seriously affect your mental health so a budget may enable you to manage both your money and your wellbeing.
Organisations like the Money Advice Service can help you with this. Also see if you can access any other financial assistance, such as an interest-free overdraft or a mortgage, loan or credit card holiday.
Doing online training to achieve personal or professional goals could help you to feel more motivated and boost your self-esteem. For personal development, there are tutorials on YouTube, the government has opened The Skills Toolkit website for free digital and numeracy courses, and the Open University offers hundreds of free courses.
Volunteering to help your community during this difficult time can help you develop skills and experience as well as give you a sense of purpose. The NCVO has put together this guide to volunteering during the coronavirus outbreak.
Your employer can help you stay connected to the organisation and support your wellbeing while you are furloughed. Consider asking about:
If you have developed a routine action plan, you may want to share this with friends, family and workmates who can provide support when you need it. If you find yourself struggling and your company has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), remember that this will remain available to support you while you are furloughed. If your employer does not offer an EAP service, contact the Mind Infoline who can direct you to local support services.
We've also got information on coronavirus and how to support your mental health as well as resources from our Mental Health at Work toolkit.