How to use COVID-19 redundancy to your advantage

Redundancy is not a modern phenomenon. Recessions date back to the year 1430 and at each occurrence, swathes of hard workers have lost their jobs.

COVID-19 has triggered yet another recession in an economy that was already turbulent. Some sectors – travel and hospitality – are worse hit than others, but a swift decline in consumer confidence and spending means that most industries are incurring reactive redundancies.

Without sounding glib, I prefer to call recessions ‘reset sessions’, as they provide people the headspace to think about what they actually want from their career. Perhaps they’ve always hated their commute; maybe they’ve continually been ignored for promotion or might even think their skills lie best outside the industry they currently service.

 Redundancy provides the headspace to start thinking like an entrepreneur. For many, it will be the push they needed to venture into self-employment. For others, who want the reassurance of continual lead generation and the support of a head office function franchising bridges the gap. Regardless of the route people take, often they don’t know where to start.

1.     Accept that redundancy is out of your control

Whenever you meet someone new, you’re usually asked ‘what do you do for a living?’. Being made redundant creates a loss of identity, or a sense of low self-value. You don’t want to be the person who says, ‘I’m currently out of work’, especially if the situation was completely out of your control.

In the short-term future at least, because of coronavirus, hearing this is going to become very normal; there is zero shame to losing your job because of a pandemic. Not being able to provide for your family is a daunting prospect, and that’s why many who are made redundant have a knee-jerk reaction and jump straight into a new job – and any job, at that. Usually, it’s one that makes them feel even less valued, and they find themselves back in the rat race.

Covid-19 will present a new challenge, though. Many senior players have been in the same role for 20 or 30 years. If your sector is in trouble because of recession, the likelihood is your role is redundant across the whole industry, rather than with your specific employer. It’s for this reason that most of our ChipsAway and Ovenclean franchisees are aged over 40. They used redundancy as an opportunity and so should you; put your destiny back into your own hands.

2.     Criticise and compliment yourself

Doing so requires an honest, upfront self-audit. Look at yourself from the outside in; what at your practical and emotional skills? Perhaps you’re good with numbers or you work well outdoors; maybe you’re trustworthy, great with people or a natural problem solver.

Also think about the things you aren’t good at. Not everyone is organised, so too much admin is a big no-no; others hate having to deal with IT, while many don’t know if they’d be able to manage a team.

3.     Prioritise your mental health

Financial hardship at home causes a lot of anxiety. Money worries are a major disruptor, and anyone made redundant – during the pandemic or not – will be concerned about where their next pay packet is coming from. During this COVID-19 era, there is then the additional pressure on our mental health from being frightened of an invisible threat and until a vaccine is formed, there will be very little confidence amongst many employers to take on new, full time staff. As a result, there will be a natural increase in self-employment.

Starting a new business is stressful; it will test your strengths and weaknesses, and there are pitfalls you won’t have even considered until you live through them. As such, it’s essential you make allowances every single day, to prioritise your mental health. Without it, your business will suffer and the feeling of low self-value you experienced when made redundant will seep back in. It’s a vicious cycle.

Over 50% of our ChipsAway and Ovenclean teams are mental health first trained; they look out for the signals and triggers that indicate our franchisees might be struggling to cope and provide them the mechanisms to get through. We’ve made several interventions during lockdown, which has been a huge strain on our workers’ mental health, but we know especially for those who’ve turned to franchising after being made redundant there is a strong fight to feel worthy and confident again after such a life changing event.

The best thing you can do for your mental health is to look beyond money. Your career is a choice and unless you’re happy in what you’re doing every day, there will be an impact – big or small – on your overall wellbeing. We invested in our mental health training because healthy franchisees deliver a better service, but ultimately, we want our team to be happy.

Redundancy can highlight a lot of different routes to re-employment, but those who fit into the self-employment model become motivated owner operators who deliver for their customers. It’s an uncertain time, but if you’ve been made redundant you have the opportunity to reclaim control, step into a career you know you can excel in, and generally become a more well-rounded, healthier person. Most who do so, approach it with trepidation then proclaim within three months that they’ll never be a full-time employee again. For them, redundancy has proved to be the liberation they never knew they needed.