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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Barker

The COVID-19 Diaries: I Should’ve Copywritten My Own Furlough Notice

Contributed by Shelby Rogers

My boss called my furlough a “win-win” for the company.

I couldn’t find much winning on my side. It was the Monday after Easter, and I expected to get right back to work on an internal marketing campaign. I already felt a bit of unease; on Good Friday, our executive team decided that -- despite being a digital marketing company with complete remote capabilities -- we should be called into the office as “essential infrastructure” employees.

I expressed concern around noon on Monday. By 3:03 p.m., I had my formal furlough notice. We’d apparently lost our digital marketing contracts, decided to pause our internal product development (of which I was part), and thus, client-based work became the priority.

I had no client work. As a marketer and copywriter, I had basic HTML and CSS knowledge but that’s where my usefulness stopped in the eyes of bosses I’d given nearly three years of my life to.

My boss emailed me the formal furlough notice first, *then* opted to call me nearly an hour later after the words had time to marinate. In that hour, I was erased from our office Slack channels and my passwords wiped from our system.

I knew access to my content would be the next to go.

For a writer, there’s something about losing your content. In Little Women, young Amy March burns her older sister Jo’s stories out of spite. Jo rages and sobs and becomes numb for a time as she realizes she’s lost so much of her creative thinking. That became my reality as I frantically picked through what content could be used for clips -- proof that my two years and seven months with the company weren’t in vain.

And as I scanned through reports, blogs, ebooks, and drafts, “it’s a win-win for everyone” kept ringing in my ears. Tears blurred my vision and hit my keyboard. I became overwhelmed with memories of projects and content and grand visions for company storytelling that I’d never get to bring to life.

I kept counting my losses. My coworkers, many of whom I’d become friends with, were a major loss. The clients I enjoyed talking to regularly. The comfort of healthcare and stable income. A semblance of normalcy despite the global upheaval.

But then more comforting thoughts entered my brain.

I lost the micromanagement of an executive team that didn’t trust us to do our own work. I lost the constant anxiety of an office so obsessed with doing what our founder wanted they were afraid to try anything new. I lost the weight of hearing my job was just to “shit out content” -- that it didn’t require thought or analysis. I lost the abuse that I tolerated from a place that never truly needed me.

I found my freedom.

I don’t know what will happen to me in the future. I don’t know what will happen to any of us or when this isolation ends or when the markets will shift and hope becomes easier to see.

But I think I’ll be okay. I think -- despite everything to the contrary -- we’ll be okay.

Oh, and if you’re an executive or manager looking for the right words on breaking bad news to a team, give me a call. Hiring a ghostwriter might save you from telling your team that a loss is a “win-win for the business.”

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