Few things can have a greater impact on our wellbeing than financial and employment security.
The effects of losing either of these can reverberate across your entire life from the workplace to your home life and well into your future.
Redundancy always deals a heavy blow. Coping with the financial difficulties of losing your job is often the most pressing concern, but finding yourself out of work can also affect your mental health and relationships.
It is for this reason that redundancy is so gravely feared by almost all employees across every industry: in one go, you can lose your job and all your financial security.
A redundancy ranks among the most stressful experiences you can have in life, with many British workers even rating redundancy as a more stressful life event that marriage breakdown and divorce.
Difficult life circumstances, such as debt and unemployment, can have a huge impact on our mental health. If your feelings are impacting your day-to-day life, then try opening up and talking to someone you trust about how you are feeling.
But redundancy does not mean the end of your career. While it will always have a huge impact, there are ways to approach a redundancy that will lessen the stress involved and help you recover quicker.
Reasons for redundancy
Companies usually announce redundancies as a cost-cutting exercise. The cause of cutting costs is likely to be one of the following:
- Automation – As the progression of technology moves ever faster, more and more employees are finding themselves replaced by machines and software.
- Outsourcing – The global nature of the world economy means that many employers prefer to cut costs by sending jobs overseas to countries with cheaper labour, or outsource the job to online freelancers.
- The economy – Economic forces are the most powerful and often unpredictable factor affecting a country’s workforce. As economic growth turns negative, it is usually jobs that are affected first, leading to a chain reaction of redundancies across, any industries.
- Senior level mismanagement – Sometimes, no matter how healthy a business model or economy is, a company can fail purely due to mismanagement, or corruption.
The most important thing to remember is that none of these is based on an individual’s personality or performance, but on matters out of your control.
Redundancies should never to taken as a personal judgement, rejection or punishment by your employer. This doesn’t make facing a redundancy any easier, but it will help as you look to your future and work to recover from the shock.
Know your rights
As an employee, you are protected by certain rights and it is up to your employer to respect these at all times. This is no different when you are being dismissed from your role through redundancy.
If you are facing an impending redundancy, it is important you understand what rights you have.
While every case of redundancy is different, depending on the individual employees and the organisation issuing the redundancies, all employers are expected to follow these basic obligations.
Prepare in advance
Whether redundancy is sudden or has been expected, there are steps you can take to reduce its impact upon your immediate and future security. A redundancy, no matter how much notice is given, is both an emotional and financial shock. The stress of a suddenly uncertain future and lack of income puts huge pressure on even the strongest individuals.
It is understandable that many people facing redundancy panic and fall into mental health issues such as depression.
While it’s important to ensure employers are meeting all their obligations regarding your redundancy, you must also plan for the future.
You can, and should, start this process as soon as you receive news of your redundancy.
Don’t take it personally
It can not be stressed enough how important this is.
Redundancy is never a matter of personal issues nor is it a result of your own actions.
Redundancy happens for many reasons and is a result of calculated, impersonal accounting and management decisions. It should never be taken as a personal attack on you or as a rejection of your contribution to an organisation.
Keeping this in mind may not save your job, but it will make your next steps much easier and help you recover from the shock and loss of redundancy.
Understand your emotions
Redundancy can cause an emotional toll on somebody akin to the loss of life or the end of a relationship.
And while redundancy can feel like an incredibly lonely experience (even when it’s shared with a large number of your colleagues), we know from the experiences of others what you can expect to feel if it happens you.
Often these feelings will hit all at once or too quickly to fully register. But by acknowledging your feelings, no matter how difficult they may be, you can deal with them much more easily.
And in doing so, reduce the stress and damage a redundancy can cause in your life.
Shock and disbelief
Even if redundancy has been expected, nothing can prepare you for the moment it comes. In the hours, days and weeks following the announcement, a person can quickly fall into a state and/or disbelief. These are usually experienced as total numbness, becoming withdrawn from friends and family, and an inability to understand your situation.
Shock and disbelief are a natural coping mechanism and result in your brain (and sometimes your body) being unable to process too many emotions or stresses all at once. It takes time for these feelings to subside, but they do.
However, once the initial shock wears off, you will have to contend with a wide range of strong emotions, many of them unfamiliar to you and all hitting you at once.
Anger, bitterness and jealousy
Redundancy will always feel like a personal attack, judgement or rejection from your employer and senior managers. It will feel unfair and unreasonable that your job could be dismissed so easily while colleagues and superiors stay on and the organisation continues to operate without you. It may leave you in a position of financial insecurity and fear. If you have a family to support and bills/debt to pay, this can add to the emotional stress.
These feelings can quickly turn to anger. Anger at your employers for terminating your job just to cut costs; anger at your managers for keeping their positions; anger and jealousy of your colleagues that were fortunate to keep their jobs. This is a natural reaction to a stressful event but it will not help you going forward.
When you become consumed by negative emotions, it is harder to find a practical solution to the problems your redundancy may cause. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions surface but try not to let the negative ones take hold.
You could simply ask yourself: Will this anger or bitterness help me find a new opportunity? Will it help me support myself and/or my family? Will it help me pay my bills?
The most important thing you can do is not project this anger on those around you. In doing so, you could risk alienating your friends and family at a time when you need them the most.
Shame and embarrassment
Strong outwardly negative emotions like anger are usually accompanied by equally destructive internal emotions. In fact, anger is often a mask for deeper feelings of hurt, shame and embarrassment all of which can be caused by redundancy.
Being singled out for dismissal by your employer affects your sense of worth, confidence and selfesteem. It will make you question your skills, experience, expertise and value as a member of staff.
It can knock your confidence as a parent and partner as it will affect your ability to support your loved ones going forward. Much of the stigma attached to redundancy comes from the idea that you have failed in your traditional role as breadwinner.
Again, it is crucial to remember that redundancy is not reflective of your value as an employee or a person. While it will mean a lot of certainties in your future and additional stress in your home life, you should never feel ashamed for being in this position.
Redundancy can happen anybody at any time. If it happens you, it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
Fear of a suddenly uncertain future can be one of the most stressful aspects of redundancy. Aside from the loss of consistent long-term income, for most people, it will be a completely new experience with lots of questions. How will you support yourself and your family? How will you find another job? What are you going to do next? How are you going to tell your family that you’ve lost your job?
These questions are understandable and difficult but they can all be answered. Instead of succumbing to panic as a result of fear, it is better to tackle these questions head-on and find an answer to each one individually.
Doing so will help clear your mind and focus on taking action instead of slipping into a depression.
Relief and guilt
It may not feel like it, but sometimes redundancy can be the best thing to happen to you. Many of us are incredibly unhappy in our jobs, wish for a way to escape and want to do something more meaningful or enjoyable. Many more of us are miserable in our jobs but don’t even realise. This can create an underlying feeling of despair that cannot be identified.
There is no event more disruptive to our work lives than redundancy. But for people who are deeply unhappy in their work, this disruption can prove to be a blessing in disguise especially if it comes with a substantial pay package and notice period. It gives you the time, financial security and freedom to finally leave your job and do something that makes you happier.
However, this may not be so obvious in the beginning. A feeling of relief after receiving redundancy notice may to the most unexpected and difficult emotion to accept. It doesn’t feel right, being happy that you and your colleagues have all just lost their jobs. It could leave you feeling guilty, especially if you have friends that needed the job more than you.
If you feel yourself experiencing this mix of emotions, do not worry about it. It is okay to be relieved and happy at times when it seems you should be angry and sad. It just means you have realised something you didn’t even know you wanted.
Make a plan
The best way to handle a shock event like redundancy and reduce its emotional toll on you is to make a simple, practical plan for your immediate future.
This starts with deciding what you want to do next: change your career, take a career break, learn a new skill, find a new job ASAP.
Next, create a timeline for when you want to achieve this and list all the steps involved in getting there.
Depending on your redundancy package, this process can be done while you continue to work or you can wait until you’ve been dismissed. However, it is crucial you start making a solid plan from right after your redundancy is announced.
A good plan will give you purpose and having a purpose is the best way to avoid falling into a trap of anxiety and depression.
Manage your finances
The biggest practical issue in redundancy is the financial impact. Even with a pay package, you face the loss of consistent income. With bills, groceries, loans, schooling and many other financial obligations to meet, it can seem impossible to keep going without a steady salary.
One of the most important steps to take after receiving a redundancy notice (maybe the most important) is to sit down and create a financial plan and budget outlining all your short and long-term expenses. After this, you can calculate how long your remaining salary, savings and redundancy pay will last before you are in trouble.
Managing your finances after redundancy can be stressful but there are some steps you can take to make life easier. Your first step should be to check if you will be entitled to redundancy pay.
If you’re made redundant because your employer has gone into liquidation, contact the Insolvency Service redundancy payments helpline (a Government-run service).
The Money Advice Service, a body supported by the government to offer free and impartial financial advice, recommends using their redundancy pay calculator and planner. The calculator provides a summary of your legal rights and straightforward advice on how to manage money.
Once that’s out of the way, you’ll need to work out your budget. If you do need to cut back spending. By doing this you’ll be able to see which areas you can make the most savings in by cutting down on unnecessary purchases, club memberships & subscription services. The more consciously you spend money, the less money you spend and the longer it lasts.
The main benefit you can claim while out of work is Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Universal Credit if you live in an area where it’s already been rolled out. But there may be other benefits available to you, depending on your personal situation, such as tax credits or help with housing costs.
If you’re in debt, you need to prioritise your debts so your rent or mortgage payment, council tax and utility bills are paid with what money you have. If you have other debts, like credit card debt, contact your card provider to explain the situation and see if your payments can be reduced. For further help with this, contact Citizens Advice.
In addition, ask your lender whether your mortgage, loan or credit card is covered by insurance, as if you lose your job or are too ill to work, you might be able to make a claim.
Free personal finance apps like Toshl Finance and Money Dashboard are great for tracking your daily/weekly/monthly expenses, learning how best to reduce them and planning ahead.
Use benefits and financial help
Did you know the Job Centre has a dedicated Rapid Response service specifically to get people facing redundancy straight back into the workplace? You can sign up for this service the same day your redundancy is announced.
It is just one of the many services, benefits and other forms of assistance created to help people facing redundancy. These can range from housing assistance to job skills training and most of them are completely free.
While many people may feel a sense of shame signing up to government benefits, it’s important to remember this is exactly the reason they were created: for people who have worked hard and to the best of their ability but still face dismissal for reasons out of their control.
The benefits and assistance available should not be seen as a long-term solution or a sign of giving up, but a helping hand to get you back on your feet ASAP.
Assess your career options
Dismissal from your job may mean looking for a new role in an unfamiliar environment/industry. Many people facing redundancy will have had the same role for 10 or 20+ years and struggle to think of doing anything else. Likewise, the idea of writing a CV and doing job interviews once again can be incredibly scary.
If you find yourself in this position, reach out and ask people more familiar with the current job market for help. This could involve advice on changing careers or help with writing a new CV. There are plenty of dedicated professional services available for this but sometimes, you need only ask your friends and family.
Look after your health
A stressful event can create a massive strain on your physical and mental health. This is no different in a redundancy. As we’ve already outlined, a redundancy affects every aspect of your life and does so negatively.
While you will want to focus on recovering from this and moving forward with your life and career, it is impossible to do so if you fall victim to depression, anxiety and despair.
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
Exercise and routine
Whether your redundancy is an immediate dismissal or comes with a notice period, keeping a regular routine and healthy lifestyle is key recovering and moving forward.
Take regular exercise, especially if your redundancy means you have more free time. Exercise not only keeps you in great shape but has positive effects on your emotions and makes you happier.
A healthy diet will improve your all round physical health and ensure you are getting all the nutrients and vitamins needed to keep up enthusiasm about your future. It can be easy to think it’s better living off processed, ready-made meals until you get back on your feet but the opposite is true. This kind of diet will make you sluggish and tired.
Keep routine and plan your whole week out. Decide what times you will focus on finding a new job and how many hours a week this will involve. Build the rest of your schedule around this a stick to it. A steady routine will help you reach your goals much more easily and reduce your stress and uneasiness.
Socialise regularly and enjoy yourself! Whether it is with friends or family, make sure you continue to maintain happy, active relationships with the people around you. Make sure this is in an emotionally healthy, supportive and rewarding environment this doesn’t mean spending every night in the pub complaining about your bad luck.
The worst thing you can possibly do after receiving redundancy is keep it to yourself. Whether you’re ashamed, embarrassed or worried about breaking the news to loved ones it will be far worse not telling them.
You are not to blame for receiving redundancy and people that care about you should be sympathetic to this. They will want to support you and help find a solution. Some may even be able to help find you a new job.
None of this can happen if you keep it to yourself.
Staying quiet and not communicating your worries and concerns will only leave you more stressed and worried and create a negative spiral into depression. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your family and friends, reach out to a professional counselling service to help you work through the emotional toll of a redundancy.
Remember redundancy is not personal. It is not a reflection on your skills or value to a business. It is simply a case of financial issues out of your control.
Keep this in mind as you move forward. A positive outlook is not the only key to finding new work but also discovering opportunities in times of hardship. Negative emotions can close our minds off to the reality of a situation and lead us further into depression and hardship.
By keeping a positive, open mind you will find it easier to solve any issues caused by redundancy. It will give you a clear mind to work on solutions instead of focusing on problems. It might sound easier said than done – but actively trying to be positive can be beneficial, even if you don’t feel like it.
See redundancy as an opportunity
With the immense pressure of finances, it can be tempting to dive headfirst into getting back on track and finding a new job – however, it’s not always the best route to take. When facing a big upheaval like redundancy, you might find that you focus on the practical steps you need to take. But these events can be stressful, and it’s important to find the space and time to look after your wellbeing too.
There is no denying the impact a redundancy will have on your life and career. Every day we read of how it has left people in a crisis or even ruined their lives.
However, with a different perspective, redundancy can also be seen as an incredible opportunity.
For some, it can give you the freedom to really think hard and decide what you want from your life and career. This can mean immediate, short term changes or a long-lasting overhaul of your entire life.
A career change
Just because you’ve been in one job or industry for 1, 10 or 30 years doesn’t mean it’s still right for you. Many of us become indifferent to and disillusioned by, a role after working in it a long time, but don’t feel it’s possible to change.
The disruption of a redundancy fixes this.
Once the initial shock of redundancy wears off, think about exploring other opportunities. Maybe your skills and personality can fit in elsewhere.
At the end of the day, no two redundancies are the same. And no two people will be affected in the same way even by the same redundancy package.
How it impacts your own life and how you recover from the emotional and financial shock will depend on your individual circumstances. There is no formula to redundancy that can fix it for everybody.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter your circumstances redundancy is not the end of the world. Or even your career. While it will create a lot of confusion and uncertainty in your life, by following the steps outlined here, you can hopefully reduce the stress involved and recover much faster.
You may even end up in a better place than you started.