Furlough: The New “F” Word of 2020


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Furlough. It’s been on the hearts and minds of people since the COVID lockdown began. The conversation was always about the possibility of it happening, until it happened to me. Through the recreation grapevine it is happening in different ways — one week, two-weeks, indefinite, everyone being affected, only some being affected. Any way you look at it, it’s tough.

It seemed a good use of time to create a checklist as a preparatory measure of what I learned and what I wish I had considered before being furloughed.


There is no feeling like having an administrator and the director of human resources step into your office. The first few hours after being told are some of the most jarring. Side note: I will forever be requesting an agenda to any meeting requests in the future.

Who’s Your Circle?

According to Teri Bump, the vice president at American Campus Communities and recent speaker for the Black Women in NIRSA network, know the individuals in your circle who you can call when this happens and who can call on your behalf. This is especially important if you don’t have an end date, need gap work or are ready to make a change. You need people calling and making introductions.

The first few days were about reaching out. I called my mentors, support and those on my references list to make sure they knew what happened and what might be coming down the pipeline. From your professional life to your personal life, who are your circle?

LinkedIn and Resume

Keep them both up-to-date. Dust off your login and get on LinkedIn today. If you are one of those who “will get around to it,” do it now. It’s the wave of hiring and who you, or the person you are looking to work for, is connected to that makes all the difference. Look at who you are mutually connected to. Have that “all in” draft of your resume you can go to. Has it been reviewed recently? Use the career center on campus and send it for a once over.

End Well

I can’t stress it enough. If it’s a short furlough and you have an end date, great. But if it is open-ended, take a moment and really consider your day-to-day operations. Take the time you have in the office to wrap anything up and pass projects to the appropriate person. Send emails to vendors who might need another point of contact as you may not have access to your email during furlough. And sit down with anyone on the team who is staying that can fill in.

Furloughs aren’t personal; it’s business. Leave the business in a good state so when you return, you are not walking into chaos.  And don’t burn the bridge. It’s OK to feel discouraged, but you are returning to work at some point. Keep it professional; you want to return as well as you left.

Take Care of Your Team

Yes, I know it’s hard. The reality is your team will need some attention, whether they are staying or also being let go. It’s going to be difficult for them to adjust their rhythm and carry on the work. They may be gifted with new duties or find themselves unexpectedly searching for work. Check in with them, offer your support and be available. I would say hug it out but 2020 doesn’t allow for that.

Take Care of You

Once the out-of-office notification is set, voicemail is changed, lights are turned off and you are heading home, let it out. Even the most reserved people will have feelings about what just happened. Give yourself a day to recalibrate and do whatever you do to decompress. I am talking healthy behaviors here; we are in business of well-being after all.

And another thing, or three:

Personal email. If you pay bills at work with your work email, stop. If you do anything with your work email other than work, stop. Change it all to your personal email. Create one if you need to just for this reason. Once your email is turned off, you won’t have access.

Keep in touch. Reach out occasionally and see how things are. I am not talking about standing outside the facility, nose to glass. Just keep connected and maintain those relationships.

Faith. No matter what you believe, your faith is designed to be what you rely on in good and turbulent times, so go to that. Talk to a professional. Reach out if/when you need to. 2020 has been a year, and it is not over yet. You are not in it alone; this profession holds the most amazing people who will walk alongside you. If nothing else, email me. Seriously, I find myself with a little time on my hands and would love to support you.

Stefani is the director of the Recreation Center at California Baptist University. She has been the director there for eight years, opening and expanding their amazing facility. She is an alum of Arizona State University with a Master’s in Recreation Management and Tourism, and the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. For the past 28 years, Stefani has had the privilege to work in a variety of areas within recreation. She is the wife of a chef and musician, mother of a six-year-old wonder, and worship singer. She can be contacted at plummerstefani@gmail.com for conversation and a virtual cup of coffee.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *