Marketing through the “Limbo of Furlough”

A lot of people have been through (and are going through) some seriously crap times right now. We all know why, so we’re not even going to mention the C word. Not that one, and definitely NOT that one. Wash your brain out, you filthy animal.

Companies have been making use of the government’s furlough scheme (whether they should have to the extent they have is another topic of discussion. But we’re not going to get into it here) and a lot of people have been left without work for an extended period and in some cases are now finding themselves without a job at all.



SIDE NOTE: If this is you and you’re on the hunt for your next role, please get in touch. We can’t make any promises with regards to a role at Sharper, but we’re well connected people, who are happy to help. Use us.

Those that haven’t been furloughed though have been left to try and keep things going for their business, either with a severely reduced team or on their own. And that’s left them in somewhat of a limbo – the theological state of being in an ignored or forgotten place, not the dancing under the stick thing.

Now, we’re not saying that we should feel sorry for those who’ve still got a job when a lot of their colleagues haven’t. But I’m sure we can at least empathise with the quagmire that the furlough situation has landed them in.



The conversation about furlough

It’s perfectly illustrated by a conversation I had with a friend of mine recently:

She’s a senior marketer for a large IT company and was part of a fairly big team of 20-or-so marketers. But all of sudden 90% of the team were furloughed, and she’s been left to navigate this “new normal” with minimal support – all without the business letting up on the activity that needs to be running or the returns that marketing needs to deliver.

So, she feels a bit stuck. If she ploughs on and delivers what the business is asking of marketing more-or-less on her own she’s basically putting her team mates out of a job – the business will think that it can function with a much smaller marketing department so they don’t need to bring anyone back.

But on the flip side, if she lets things slip and doesn’t keep up with the demands of the business, she could be seen to not know how to deal with things and potentially torpedo her own credibility in the business.


Stuck between Dwayne Johnson and a castle


It’s a whole “rock and a hard place” scenario. But what can she (or you, if you’re in the same situation) do about it? Here are our 4 suggestions…


  1. Reshape the expectations of the business

This is a situation that none of us have been in before, so if your business is still expecting things to run the same as they did back in the “good old days” of a few months ago it needs to be given a reality check.

Just what is feasible given the situation you’re in? Hone in on what’s doable right now that’s going to make the biggest difference for your business and then push back on the higher-ups to let them know what the realities are.


  1. Bring in some short-term support

If you’ve still got more to do than you can feasibly cope with, but you’ve not got the hands on deck to deal with it, then find yourself some temporary hands to fill the gap.

There are plenty of freelancers, contractors, and agencies (cough cough…ahem) out there willing and able to work on a short-term basis and pick up those activities that are important to keeping your marketing going but beyond your capability right now.

Have a look at the budgets you’ve got to play with and your mix of external partners and ask the question. Bringing in a “SWAT team” to keep things ticking over rather than suffering on your own could be one of the best moves you can make right now


  1. Plan for a variety of post-furlough scenarios

As furlough comes to an end some people will (hopefully) be returning to the jobs they had before, coming back to re-shaped roles, or (very sadly) being let go. So, if you’re still in post whilst this is happening then you need to make plans for how things might look in a variety of different formats.

Is your whole team going to come back? And if they do will it be all at once or staggered over weeks/months? Maybe only a % of your team will be coming back. What do their roles look like as part of a re-shaped function? Or maybe no one’s able to come back. How can you keep things going as they are indefinitely?



These are all possibilities (and there are plenty of other options too) that need to be thought about and planned for in order to keep marketing functioning and delivering value for your business.


  1. Don’t beat yourself up about it

This is probably the most important one. You can’t be too harsh on yourself with this whole situation – you didn’t ask for it. Yes, you might feel guilt for being employed whilst others are let go. You might feel anxious, frustrated, angry, disappointed or any other of a range of emotions right now and those are all valid ways to feel. But try not to let it get to you, this will all be a distant memory at some point. You’re doing a great job.


If you are finding yourself in limbo, we’re happy to help however we can. Whether that be working with you to shape your future team plans, supporting you with a few adhoc campaigns, or just listening to you rant about your troubles… a problem shared is a problem halved after all. Just drop us a line.