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Why furloughs aren’t all bad

Even though I took off my Gannett-employee hat two months ago, I can’t help but looking in on my old haunt. Gannett Blog is still in my Google Reader, so I also find myself rubber-necking every once in awhile. Tonight, I came across a post speculating more furloughs may be forthcoming. Some of the comments were bitter, but they got me thinking. Although the decision has no bearing on me, I thought I’d throw my 5 cents in with reasons why I was OK with the furloughs as opposed to say, a true pay cut or another set of layoffs.

  1. A true pay cut permanently lowers your salary. So even if pay raises do happen, your raise will be based on your current salary minus 2-percent (one week is about 2 percent of the year’s salary). That means your raise and eventual salary will be less. It also cheapens your value for every hour you work at the company from then on.
  2. A direct pay cut also means you get paid less for doing the same amount of work. At least with a furlough, your work is still worth the same amount (pittance as it is) to the company. You get a week off in exchange for getting paid less. Of course, furloughs mean more work spread among those working that week, but so do layoffs.
  3. The company cannot contact you during your furlough. When was the last paid vacation you had that wasn’t intruded upon in some way by Gannett/work? I haven’t had one. But my furloughs have been blissfully work-free (if not worry-free — hello rent, I’m looking at you).
  4. You can take an entire week off work and not feel guilty. The company is screwing you, so you shouldn’t feel bad about taking an entire week off even if it means missing meetings or something you should be at. Don’t take a day furlough here and there. You lose absolutely the same amount of money whether you take every other Tuesday or a week straight. Take the full week — it’s harder to make up a full week’s work staying late the day before or the day after (yes, I’ve been there too).
  5. You’ve probably complained about how you can’t find a new job because you don’t have time to put together a resume, portfolio and find and apply. This is a great time to get cracking on that.
  6. A furlough means you have a job to come back to. Instead, they could lay you off, or they could layoff someone else in your department, which means when you’re at work you’ll have their job to do too — not just this week but forever.


One of the beautiful waterfalls I saw on a hike during my March 2010 furlough in North Carolina.

Personally, I enjoyed my furloughs. Don’t get me wrong, they crushed my already tenuous budget. I was already barely paid enough to cover bills. The first year — two weeks of furloughs following a raise that was eliminated by the first week’s furlough — I was shocked at the news. It meant lots of ramen noodles for me, but somehow I managed. I knew by the next year, my third furlough week in the first quarter of 2010, that I’d survive. Still, I ended up taking a part-time job after the third mandatory week without pay because I wasn’t sure I could survive another week without pay. It sucked, but it strengthened me. The actual furlough time off, however, I did not mind. The weeks gave me the longest breaks I had from work since starting college. The first week off, I went home to Ohio to hang out with my mother visiting parks and museums; the second week I took a road trip from Ohio to Orlando with my father for a sister’s wedding; and on the third week, my boyfriend and I traveled over the Smokey Mountains and through the Blue Ridge Mountain area, hiking, dining, touring communities, visiting friends and seeing new places. Each of those weeks was packed with fun times, and I probably wouldn’t have had done any of them without the furlough. So, for those who will be affected by this, please, try to look on the bright side.

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