At CALM we know how much money worries can really affect your mental health – and the last 12 months have taken their toll on so many people. Here, Amy tells her story about being made redundant, offering insight into how it felt to be handed a P45 in the middle of a pandemic.
Turn the clock back to a month before the first lockdown and I was leaving work for a last minute long weekend. Enjoying that Friday feeling on a Thursday afternoon, my thoughts couldn’t be further from losing my job, let alone what redundancy would look like during Covid. Almost a year on, Covid-related redundancies are still rising, so here’s what I wish I’d known before being made redundant.
Still off work and sitting in bed sipping a coffee on Monday morning, an email notification pinged onto my phone screen. A meeting request to discuss my future within the company the coming Wednesday. People talk a lot about gut instincts – sensing incoming rain and taking the washing in, or getting a good feeling about your footie team winning a match, but the gut instinct I had when reading the email punched me right in the feels.
Fumbling for WhatsApp, I messaged my best mate, who reassured me that it was probably a new opportunity opening up, maybe even a promotion, but this nagging sense that things were about to go sideways stayed with me until the day I was told there was no longer a role for me.
Fast forward to three lockdowns later and my situation doesn’t feel so unique. My redundancy was initially met with shock, now it’s met with tales of family, friends and colleagues in the same boat. We’re all part of the same collateral damage. Coronavirus has catapulted the country into the deepest recession in 300 years, with redundancies hitting a record level and 2.6 million people expected to lose their jobs by the middle of 2021. Millions of people remain on furlough, uncertain whether they’ll have jobs to come back to after this has come to some kind of close.
While it’s difficult to mentally prepare for the rollercoaster of emotions you’ll feel when you’re told you no longer have a job (the search for a solicitor to review settlement agreements, the embarrassment you’ll feel even though it wasn’t your fault, or the knock your confidence will take), nobody can prepare you for balancing anxieties over losing your job with the possibility of losing a loved one to coronavirus.
Everyone will ride the redundancy wave in their own way, but here’s a round up of the things I wish I’d known about losing my job during a pandemic and what helped me move forward during this strange year.
You’ll probably be raging
The bitterness has subsided a little since I was first told, but it’s taken me almost six months to get to a place where I can talk about what happened without cracking jokes as a coping mechanism or using a string of expletives. It’s important to talk about the emotional fallout of being made redundant during an already stressful time.
As a self-confessed people-pleaser, I surprised myself by how rude and offhand I was when told. Despite being assured it wasn’t personal, as I sat in a cramped stuffy room, it was hard not to direct my anger and frustration at the people delivering the news.
It’s totally normal to feel cross that the rug has been pulled from under you with no warning and it’s hard not to feel mad that your security has been taken away in such an uncertain time, but trust me when I say, it really isn’t personal. Give yourself some time to acknowledge your feelings before putting a lid on them. They’re bound to bubble over every now and then, but it does get easier to keep them in perspective as time goes on.
Learn the lingo and get clued up before redundancy meetings
I had no idea how drawn out a redundancy process can be and even after a month of negotiations and meetings I was pretty clueless when it came to knowing the ins and outs of the whole process. I learnt new words like ‘settlement agreement’ and ‘severance’, learnt I needed a solicitor as a legal requirement and found myself flicking through the government website nightly in an attempt to memorise my rights. While I like to think I was a clipboard and suit away from fighting true crime in the courtroom, in reality I felt overwhelmed and completely in over my head.
If you’ve found yourself in the same situation during lockdown, it’s likely your redundancy meetings will be held on video call (and trust me, you haven’t felt humiliation until you cry on a Google Hangout in front of higher management) which can make the whole thing even more draining. Friends and family told me these meetings would be about negotiating the best deal and despite bravely putting on my best bargaining face, it was hard to muster up the courage to ask for what I needed.
It’s not easy but if you can, leave emotions at the door and get real with your employers about what you require, whether it’s negotiating to keep hardware so you can search for employment, or making sure you have enough money until you find a new job.
You may feel bitter that you’ve not had time to say goodbye
In a last ditch attempt to keep hold of my job, I asked to be furloughed, requesting my redundancy was revisited once coronavirus had settled down, but my polite plea was met with a stark no. I felt like I was being rushed out the door, with no time to say goodbye to colleagues at the usual leaving drinks.
I also grew a strange sense of jealousy over coronavirus eclipsing my anxieties about redundancy, because suddenly everyone was feeling some level of anxiety. I didn’t feel I had a right to experience the stages of grief I felt over my job loss when I still had a roof over my head and didn’t know anyone who was seriously ill with Covid.
But I did have a right to feel let down and if you’ve lost your job, you do too. Because what makes a pandemic feel even scarier? Worrying about where your next pay cheque is going to come from. After the initial buzz from a redundancy payment, the prospect of searching for work when companies seem more worried about ousting people than hiring them, is a scary one.
If a pandemic does anything, it crystallises the things that are important to us. Our needs become simplified when we are most concerned about our family and friends’ wellbeing or whether we’ll be able to source basic items in the supermarket when everyone is panic buying. It might feel scary amongst the chaos of everything going on in the world, but redundancy can be an opportunity to refresh your perspective on your next steps.
You’ll have big highs and lows
At first, being confined to our homes came as a relief. I wouldn’t have to explain at social gatherings that I was no longer employed by the company I hadn’t shut up about in the past. But as time went on I just wanted to go to a pub and vent with friends about what had happened.
Navigating all of this while you can’t pop in for a cuppa and a cuddle with someone you love is HARD. Some days it’s difficult to peel yourself off the sofa, other times you wake up with some serious Rocky Balboa energy. In the space of a year, I’ve darted from relief to fear about the future, but I’m slowly finding my feet again and I promise, you will too.
Being made redundant can churn up a whole load of feelings and some of them can be really tricky to process on your own. If you’re struggling after being made redundant, CALM’s free confidential helpline and webchat service is open everyday from 5pm until midnight. Run by trained staff, they’ll lend a listening ear and give you advice on next steps. Contact CALM here.
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