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Friday 27th November 2020

Mouthy Money talks to a product designer who has been furloughed until 31 October and is facing tough decisions as her business pivots to survive coronavirus

At the peak of the furlough scheme as many as one in three workers in the UK was placed on the programme by their employer.

In a series of three articles we talk under condition of anonymity to three people who have been through furlough about their experiences, what the future holds for them now the scheme is coming to an end, and how their employers and industries have been coping. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Coming from the worlds of law, theatre and product design, they each have different experiences, anxieties over their employment and concerns about the future.

In our third and final instalment, we speak to Mathilda Wakeley* a product designer at a marketing company, who has been furloughed all the way until the scheme closes on 31 October.

Mathilda tells us about the bleak outlook for her job, as well as the surprising new interest she found during lockdown, which she hopes could lead to a new career.

Product designer at a marketing company – furloughed until 31st October

How was the communication with your employer when you were put on furlough?

The owner of the company held a few companywide Zoom calls to explain how the business was doing at the start of lockdown. The main part of my work was designing booths for events, so my team and I already knew we were probably going to be furloughed.

After this happened, we had regular team meetings to keep everybody in contact. In that respect communication was good, but I think it was hard for management to give us a clear answer on returning as they didn’t know themselves.

What was your experience of being on furlough?

I had only been at my job for about six months, so I was constantly concerned that if things took a turn then I wasn’t going back.

I started off having all these plans to redecorate my house and start painting again, but after a couple of months when things started to relax more I went home to stay with my parents for a while.

I kept busy with gardening and volunteering to take food to vulnerable people who couldn’t go outside, so I never succumbed to boredom.

Were you ever uncertain about going back?

Like a lot of people, I just assumed that we would be back to work after a week or two, but that didn’t happen. My role was designing booths to showcase a company at events and while they haven’t definitively said it, I am pretty sure they won’t be able to take me back.

There just isn’t the demand for the work I did in the current environment. The company wants to continue keeping us on the scheme as long as they can. I think they feel bad for the employees that are going to have to be let go.

How does the future look for your industry and organisation?

I think my organisation is going to pivot towards more video production and design in other areas like branding and websites. The events side of things may continue down the line but right now I just don’t see that happening any time soon – not soon enough for me to be fully re-employed.

The industry has obviously been hit hard as practically everyone who was looking to move forwards on using design services in the summer stopped. Places are employing people again and I have looked at other jobs, but it’s hard as I’m straight out of Uni and my experience has only been in events.

But, gardening through lockdown has given me a taste for landscaping which I am taking courses on, so the silver lining to all this is that I may have found a new profession.

If you too have been furloughed or subject to any other government schemes to protect your income or job against the coronavirus crisis, get in touch! Please email editors@mouthymoney.co.uk because we’d like to hear and possible share your story too.

* a pseudonym

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Neil Kennedy
Neil Kennedy

Neil is a communications consultant based in London and has strategically invested most of his savings into wine, gin and whisky. He plays squash, the trumpet and at being a film buff.

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