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Furloughed….Looking Back

When things are going well for integrateIT, I have the opportunity to interview somewhere between three and five people a week.  When you take that number, and multiply it by the three years or so I have been conducting interviews….that’s a lot of interviews.  While each experience is different, the same questions pop up from the candidates.  Common points of discussion include the direction of the company, current status of existing contracts, and integrateIT’s total benefits package.  But over the last few months, everyone has asked me the same thing…what did your company do for its employees during the furlough?

First, it is important to look back at the landscape of the times….all of three months ago.  Over the past eight years, there have been several threats of work stoppages, each seemingly halted with a last minute deal.  It had gotten to the point of the boy who cried wolf, so no one really believed a furlough would come, and if it did, we’d all be out of work for what would amount to a snow day.  The first day off, I think about 90 percent of my company played golf.  Everyone was in a good mood, laughing and joking.  By the third day, people were starting to get jitters, and the laughter turned nervous.  By the fifth day? Well, people were starting to worry about how bills were going to be paid.

This was the first time an event on a national level personally impacted me.  By no means am I comparing the furlough to a catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina where lives were lost, as obviously these events are on two different spectrums.  But to me, the furlough was huge.  I was in the one percent of people that was affected, while everyone else was able to carry on with their lives.  I was incredibly stressed out….stress that I have never felt before.  I had no way to decompress.  Each day I spent hours refreshing my web browser to see if there was any movement towards ending the shutdown.  As the shutdown entered into the second week, I became more depressed as movement seemingly was halted…and status updates were pushed further and further away from the front page of the news.  As stressed out as I was, I could only imagine how worried our employees were.  They had heard stories from their peers about salary freezes, about benefits no longer being paid.  As cliche as it sounds, and I’ve mentioned this before, Geoff and I recognize the leap people take to work for a small company.  We have promised our staff that we will do whatever we can to take care of them, and we mean it. As such, Geoff and I decided to pay our staff during the shutdown.  No matter what it took, we were going to figure out a way to make it work.  But as the shutdown entered the third week, we knew we couldn’t keep this up much longer, else there wouldn’t be a company for anyone to come back to.

Fortunately, it never came to that.  The shutdown ended, and everyone went back to work.  The whole thing seems like a distant memory.  Except it isn’t, not to me, and not to the people that experienced it.  Every day is a reminder to feel grateful to be able to make a living.  Every day is a reminder to work hard, or else someone could replace you. I don’t feel entitled.  I feel lucky.  And I hope everyone else feels the same way.   I hope the people that we interview that ask about how we handled the furlough feel the passion we have towards our company and the loyalty we have to our staff.  And….I hope we never have to deal with this again.

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