The truth about furlough

Newsline’s Huma Whitehouse on being on furlough.

The year 2020 is one which will make history. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve experienced anything remotely like a worldwide pandemic and I know I’m not alone is hoping it’s the one and only time we’ll encounter this.

With the lockdown came furlough – a word most of us never heard of until we were placed on it.

Even though Newsline has managed to ride the pandemic wave, I was placed on furlough.

In this blog, I’m going to share the lessons I learned while being off work for three months and how I adapted to the ‘new normal’.

You’ll feel a strange sense of relief

If someone previously told me that in order to save my job, I would need to stop working while still getting paid, I wouldn’t believe them. Like most, I felt quite anxious about the future of my job but furlough allowed me to relax a little, knowing that I will still have a job to go to and money coming in, even if it’s reduced. Most companies would have had to make multiple redundancies, so I’m thankful there was another option.

Time no longer exists

The first two weeks of furlough can feel like annual leave. It starts off as bliss but one day, you wake up and realise you have no structure or sense of the week. I really struggled with filling my days and the need to be productive. When you’re used to working full time every week, stopping completely can leave you wondering, what do I do with my time? Most days felt like a Friday and April consisted of 100 days.

Finding hobbies

I jumped on the popular bandwagon of baking – no, I didn’t make banana bread. I started bullet journaling to add some structure to my day and learn more about my general habits. I also flexed my creative muscles and completed my first paint by numbers piece. This seems quite productive; however, I also spent many hours in bed re-watching Disney shows and exercising whenever I liked. Furlough gave me a new sense of independence and enjoyment being in my own company.


About a month into furlough, I found my new normal. What I didn’t expect to feel was a sense of missing out. It sometimes felt lonely seeing messages and email exchanges from your colleagues working on exciting projects and having the usual daily catch-ups. Although no one made me feel excluded, you can’t help but wonder what exciting opportunities you’re missing out on.

Can I still do this?

So, you get the call to say your furlough is ending and you realise you haven’t done your job for more than two months. You remember how forgetful you get after two weeks’ annual leave and start to panic and wonder if you can still do this. I have been back at work for a week now and I can honestly say it’s like riding a bike.

As long as you have a good team around you who can bring you up to speed, you’ll quickly slip back into normality.

Furlough has been a real eye-opener for me and has allowed me the time to assess where I am in my career, map out future goals and come back to work with renewed motivation.

That said, I hope to never have to be in this situation again!