A Month In Furlough. And 3 Reasons Why I’ve Returned To Work.

by | May 7, 2020

It’s impossible to escape the c-word (coronavirus) at the moment. Thankfully, neither of us, nor our families, have been directly affected so far. But there’s another word – an f-word – that’s recently crept into daily language that we HAVE experienced, so I thought I’d write about that.

‘Furlough’ is defined as… “a temporary leave of employees due to special needs of a company or employer.” In this case, the inability to work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In late March, we contacted our regular clients to check whether they were likely to commission any new projects during April. When they said “probably not”, Linda and I took the decision to furlough ourselves and close H&H HQ for the month. And here’s my thoughts on furloughed life…

Committing to doing zero paid design work during April would obviously put a dent in the business bank balance, but during a month when our clients weren’t in need of our creative services, we’ve been lucky to get some financial support from the UK Government.

As Directors of a Limited Company, we qualify for the COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme. Aimed at preventing millions of redundancies during the crisis, the scheme commits to paying 80 per cent of furloughed workers’ wage bills.

Our April grant payment has already arrived and we’re seeing the money, not as a business bailout, but as a ‘bridge’ to get us where we want to be…on the other side of the crisis, with H&H, and all our clients’ businesses, still intact.

We’ve still been getting up at 6.30am (honestly!) and we’ve been talking to each other multiple times a day. But with less design projects to fill our time, we’ve also been doing/trying out some other stuff.

As well as her usual cycling and running, Linda’s now got an impressive-looking weights gym set up in her back garden, she’s been running video training sessions, and she’s been teaching her tabby cat, Tommy, to ring a bell – don’t ask! 🙂

Thanks to some great (and currently-free!) online courses, I’ve learnt some Spanish (thank you Duolingo), and some electric guitar (thank you Fender). I’ve read more than ever (thank you Barbara Kingsolver, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Derek Jarman etc.). And thanks to April’s amazing weather, I’ve been sitting in our little garden with a mug of tea, or a glass of beer, listening to the birds singing.

It’s true…these are ‘unprecedented times’, but as freelance creatives we’ve experienced quieter spells before. I wouldn’t say that we’re USED to it – we probably never will be – but I reckon we’ve found it easier to ‘get our heads round’ than many other people.

The rules around working (or rather, not working) during furlough did drive us slightly mad though!

Being furloughed means not doing any activities that generate revenue, which basically means no paid design work. That’s fair enough, even if being paid NOT to work doesn’t sit that comfortably with either of us. But it also means we’ve been unable to actively promote our creative services for the future. And thats’s been tough, when all we want to do is stay safe…but also stay in business.

The rule has also made us more reticent to promote our clients through our Social Media channels.
Is liking and sharing THEIR posts really us working? Or is it just us being normal human beings?

We ARE allowed to carry out ‘statutory Directors duties’ though – the bare minimum to operate the business. And we’re allowed to take part in training, which has been great. Who knew that LinkedIn was so exciting?!

And we’re also allowed to help with voluntary, unpaid design work, which we’ve been able to do. Even local charities and community organisations deserve to look super-smart! 🙂

So…being furloughed has had its ups and downs.
But as of last Friday, I’m now ‘unfurloughed’ (if that’s even a word?!) and back at work. And here’s 3 reasons why...

1. H&H is the perfect’ work from home’ business.
While we both like meeting people, it’s not really necessary for us to do our jobs. We’re all set up to work from home, and we’re used to communicating virtually and sharing large files digitally. So I’ve come out of furlough to find all those brilliant businesses in currently-booming sectors that need a professional graphic design agency with decades of experience, inspiring ideas, and outstanding creative quality

2. We want to help more people and businesses
We can (and do) make a majorly positive difference to our clients’ businesses. When they look better, they attract more customers/clients, and they grow more quickly. When Time & Tide Brewing pass on the amazing feedback they get from customers about their label designs, or when Full Circle tell us their branding is perfect for their various target audiences, it helps us to realise we’ve done a great job for them…but is also makes us want to help other people too.

3. We want H&H to survive coronavirus
It’s a sad inevitability, that as well as the tragic human loss of the pandemic, there will also be some business casualties. As H&H’s New Business/Sales Director it’s my job to try and make sure we aren’t one of those statistics…and that means attracting new clients and/or projects. It’s true, the ongoing uncertainty about how long this will last can be stressful, but we keep reminding ourselves that we’ve survived challenging times before. Thankfully, there’s always been another new client or project to help us pay for next month’s baked beans 🙂

So there you have it. I’m back and looking for exciting, new creative projects for us to work on. And maybe you’re looking for us??

“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”

Henry Kissinger