Furlough Advice — How To Sharpen Your Axe

Furlough Advice — How To Sharpen Your Axe 1

Over the past two months, the government’s initiative to support businesses through this unprecedented time has resulted in a new common status of employment, with HMRC reporting nearly a quarter of the UK workforce being furloughed.

Whilst for every individual this new situation presents a unique challenge, life on furlough may be the chance to seize new opportunities.

For parents this frees up time to spend with their children and adjust to their new full-time positions as teachers but, for others, this limbo period means more time on their hands.

Business as we know it is rapidly changing, and it will be important to adapt quickly and hit the ground running when you reenter the workforce. For those on furlough, this could be a rare opportunity to prepare you for the next steps in your career and exceed your employer’s expectations. After all, when you spend all day chopping down trees, when do you get the time to sharpen your axe?

Online Resources

In adapting to the current environment, many of us are turning online to stay connected to friends and family, to shop, but also to explore options for learning and growing from home.

There has been an increase in online learning opportunities, from up-leveling in your existing field, learning new tech skills to revisiting your favorite university subject. This momentary pause in work doesn’t have to stop you from professionally progressing.

Some of the top free resources out there right now are Google’s Digital GarageFuture LearnSkillshareCode AcademyHarvardYale and the Government Skills Toolkit. Have more free resources to share? Add them in the comments below.

With learning and development actively encouraged during furlough, take the chance to discuss and identify the training opportunities available from your manager. Concentrating on these areas can help you plan ahead and enable you to thrive in your return to work.

Listen and Read

Reading can be a great way to learn, develop your knowledge on a subject, expand your vocabulary and, we’ve all got that list of books we’d love to read if we just had the time.

Whether you choose a self-help book to guide you to discover time management solutions, online magazines and reports that widen your insights or simply a fiction book you’re keen to get stuck into, wider reading is a productive way to spend free time.

Discuss with your colleagues and friends and find out what they’ve found enjoyable and insightful, you may discover common interests you didn’t know you shared!

For more inspiration see out Bill Gates’ lockdown reading list here, or Obama’s top reads during his presidency.

If you take information on better through audio, explore and share your favourite podcasts and audiobooks. Audible is offering a free 30-day trial if you sign up, so you could take advantage of some of their titles too.


While the demands in your normal role are obsolete, there are some businesses that could use someone with skills just like yours. A Volcano Works survey found that many furloughed staff would #ratherbeworking, with 86% saying they wanted to contribute to the survival of their employer’s business while enhancing their own job security. As that is not feasible in today’s Furlough Scheme, people are finding other ways to try and push forward the economy and society through volunteering for non- and for-profits.

This could also be a brilliant way of seeing how other businesses do things that you could both add to your own arsenal and bring back to your current employer once furlough ends.

You may choose to support a startup and contribute to their success stories, Work In Startups have a page dedicated to finding these volunteer opportunities.

Charities and the emergency services are also seeking volunteers. Check the government website here or get in touch with your local council to see where you may be able to support. The NHS and British Cross have specified coronavirus related volunteering through GSNAM that can be found here.

Well being

Adapting to this changing world isn’t easy and it’s important to look after yourself at this time. We must acknowledge the importance of looking after our physical and mental health as well as upskilling.

Take a break from being behind your screens and enjoy time in the British sunshine to go for a walk, run or cycle. Regular exercise can keep your body and mind stimulated as well as releasing stress.

Explore various fitness apps and gyms, new online classes and Instagram live sessions, to find a new fitness routine, all possible from your own home. Never thought you were a Yogi before? Now is a better time than ever for self-discovery.

Find methods to remain calm and mindful. There are a number of supportive apps such as Headspace and Calm providing free services to help us weather the storm at this time.

It takes time to adjust to this new norm and find a routine again. If you have a day of not-a-lot, don’t beat yourself up, take each next day as a new start.

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