For some of us, uncertainty is a walk in the park. For others, it’s a stomach-churning, angst-inducing journey into the darkest reaches of the soul. Some days you’re on the crest of a wave, other days you feel like the wave has dumped you in deep water and rushed off without you. In the ups and downs of these stormy times, Working Voices invites you to step into our Safe House, a place of calm advice and practical support.
For many, 2020 has been painful. In the Safe House, we’ll be sharing stories of difficult experiences this year, we’ll be offering tips and help, and we’ll give you free resources. Feel free to dip in and out, and take what works for you. In troubling circumstances, it’s easy to feel alone. If you’re reading this, wondering what the future will bring, know that others are doing the same.
We train people from all walks of life in a range of professional skills, in cities around the world. We know how to put some zing back into your batteries. Whatever 2020 brought, together we can help ensure 2021 is about new beginnings. You might feel alone. In truth, in here you’re not.
Claire in Dorset was made redundant in April, she’d never been made redundant before. For the first time she found herself changing job through circumstances outside her control. Initially she planned to take short-term contracts, but things moved in a different direction when her former employer offered her one day a week. This encouraged her to seek similar work elsewhere, effectively becoming a freelance executive assistant. “It’s bizarre how one day you can be feeling confident about everything,” Claire says, “and the next you feel the complete opposite”. Lacking experience in agreeing freelance pay-rates, Claire took professional advice, focusing on building confidence and learning to negotiate. “I realised I was finding it hard to ask for what I was worth”, Claire admits.
Looking back on the turbulent days of early summer, Claire says an important first step was to “stabilise” by remembering she “has a good skillset”. She says keeping busy was an essential part of her strategy. After a while, she picked up a further two days a week helping to run holiday lets, managing a torrent of bookings hastily being rescheduled or cancelled. Together, the three days a week were enough to give her some security, which in turn boosted her confidence further.
Recently Claire has picked up a fourth day with a new employer and now she’s feeling a little better about the world. “I still have good days and bad days”, she says, comparing the recent months to a queasy rollercoaster ride. Asking Claire what advice she might give, she says “building a portfolio makes sense. I’d never wanted to be self-employed but now that I am, I’m able to do things differently. When I was employed full-time I remained at my desk at home, even in quiet moments when there wasn’t much to do. Now, I feel more in control of my time and what I do with it. I’ve learned to become more robust. In some ways, the life that I have now is better than before.”
The hidden, human story
Across the economy, business resources and personal finances are becoming dangerously stretched. For some, contracts have been loosened, terms altered, salaries reduced. For others, the decision to wind down the furlough scheme has led to redundancy. There has been a record rise in the number of redundancies, currently at 227,000 – the highest level since the economic downturn of 2009. Many employers may yet decide they can’t afford to keep their staff on, redundancy figures are likely to continue to climb. This comes at a time when there are 40% fewer job vacancies than a year ago.
The most recent unemployment rate, published in August, stood at 4.5% – with 1.5 million people unemployed. In September, 2.7 million people claimed unemployment benefits, (either because of unemployment or low income), according to the government’s spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility. The OBR has previously predicted unemployment will peak at 9.7% this year and may climb to 13.2% in early 2021 – with four million people out of work.
Amidst these grim numbers, the Safe House is about the human story that all too easily slips out of sight. Around 7 in 10 (76%) adults are very or somewhat worried about the effect of Covid-19 on their life right now, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Inevitably, this figure has been increasing since the end of the summer and reflects the fact that more than 8 million people across the UK are currently experiencing the toughest level (tier 3) in lockdown restrictions.
In great moments of change, anxiety can have a debilitating effect. The Safe House will help you find inspiration, help you keep moving, help you lose your fear or find your mojo – whatever it is you might need. Claire touched on a couple of points that are central to our plans. She felt she needed to take back control, and she found this was easier after talking to other people.
Taking control begins with adjusting your mindset. In my own personal experience, during a freelance career in journalism and TV production there was occasional feasting on a fatted calf. Other times, the calf skipped off sharpish and I was fending off famine. Supporting a family and paying a mortgage added to the stresses. I was passionate about what I was doing, but I wanted more security.
There is certainty in job satisfaction, there is certainty in redundancy. But as a fearful and insecure winter looms over us, many are facing unsettling uncertainties. I found that uncertainty could be deceptively optimistic, inducing the feeling that ‘things are tricky now but they might settle down soon’, or ‘I’ll wait to see what the future brings’.
This type of thinking was about holding on, it didn’t offer long-term peace or comfort. And while I was holding on, I wasn’t finding the future I wanted. I was fearful of change. A friend advised me to change my mindset. He suggested that rather than see myself as a person looking for a better job, someone looking to become the next version of myself, I should imagine myself as someone who had found what, or who, I needed to be. Once I had accepted this and saw myself as someone ready to move on, changes happened fast.
Let us help you take control and give you what you need to move on. Welcome to the Safe House. Times are difficult now, but the future is yours to create.