A Most Unwelcome January Holiday

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By Melissa Davies

If you are one of the 172,500 Virginia residents who are also federal employees currently furloughed in the latest budget fight on Capitol Hill, my sympathies are with you. If you are a government contractor who is now being expected to use your vacation days to compensate for not working, I feel for your situation. If you rely on government employees for your livelihood, whether as a restaurant worker, a hair stylist, or a massage therapist, I appreciate your concerns and fears. If you are a business owner with many clients in the Federal Government, know that I share your frustration.

More than the loss of pay (though that is the elephant and donkey in the room) is feeling of being untethered, frightened, frustrated, and yes, bored out of your mind.

After the frenzied holiday season, many of us look forward to a bright shiny new year. It’s time to get back to work.  But, when is that going to happen? What messes will have to be cleaned up, literally if you are working in a medical research lab and professionally if you are the head of HR and people need to get paid

It’s enough for you to say, “I’m done.” But before you polish your resume, remember that despite the news and the political saber rattling, your job is important. The federal government as well as local and state governments, need skilled workforces to make important things happen, like national security, space exploration, trade, and medical research.

Money makes it all possible

If money concerns are keeping you up at night, use this unscheduled time productively.

  1. Organize your taxes and file early
  2. Review your current phone/internet/cable/magazine/subscription services and cancel plans you don’t use or try to renegotiate
  3. Freeze memberships that you may not be using
  4. Sell items that you’ve been meaning to sell; get ready for your community’s yearly garage sale
  5. Return unwanted holiday gifts
  6. Call your credit card companies and renegotiate your interest rates
  7. Got some cash not earning much in a traditional bank account? Research online savings accounts or high interest money market and CD rates
  8. Plan for what happens the next time. Sadly, there will be a next time

So… bored

After you finish this article, set a limit on your screen time. Cat videos are like candy, tasty but empty.

  • Since you need to save money, try cooking. Really dive into something new
  • Visit the library for books, magazines, videos, and lectures
  • The federal parks and museums are closed, but Virginia is still open for tourists. Explore someplace new
  • Take an online class. Edx.com offers hundreds of free classes from storytelling to cyber security

A little scared 

Changes in our routine, like a regular paycheck, can cause real fear. If your furlough is causing significant mental stress, seek help. You may need to only reach out to friends and co-workers for a good gab session. If you are having panic attacks, finding it hard to get out of bed or feeling depressed, seek help from a medical professional. You may not be working, but your health benefits are

This unscheduled time is not your fault and not within your control. What is within your control is how to use it. Do something, anything, so that when the work does start again you’ll feel ready for the next time.


Melissa Davies is an executive leadership coach and facilitator as well as the author of How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work.  She resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in leadership, management and team development, executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training.  She can be reached at info@wisewaysconsulting.com or through wisewaysconsulting.com



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