4 benefits of practicing a layoff

By Scot Herrick | Personal Finance

May 14

With job losses continuing, job stress for those still employed continues. Does management know how to distribute the work? What work will we no longer do? Will there be more layoffs? Will I have a layoff next?

For those who are already laid off, the mission is clear: find another job. For those who stay, nothing is clear. And you can only live with ambiguity for so long.

Reduce job stress through a practice layoff

One of the (many) ways to reduce stress is to do something proactive about that which stresses you. Even small steps that allow you some control over your circumstances will help.

Practicing for a layoff is not a small step — it’s big. But worth it. Simply do this: pretend you are laid off starting tomorrow. What steps would you take right now to ready yourself and your family to live on unemployment, severance and your savings? Then go do it.

What would you pare back? What debt would you get rid of right now? How would you change your food shopping habits, cable or satellite packages, Netflix accounts and other discretionary income? How much will COBRA cost? How much income will you get from unemployment insurance? How much take-home pay do you have in the bank right now to cover expenses? How long will it last?

Pick an expense level to drive to and then practice being at that level for two months to see what other items you missed. Put a plan together, make all the changes, and then live to your planned level of income and expenses for two months.

Benefits to practicing for a layoff

Now, let’s be clear: this practice will be stressful — but not as stressful if you were doing this under the gun of a layoff that already happened to you.

But practicing will give you benefits:

  1. You know how long you can survive. After two months of living at this level, you will know how long you can survive if a layoff happened right now. You may not like the answer, but you will know. Known things are better than the anxiety caused by unknown things.
  2. You will miss expenses. You will discover what you didn’t take into account over the two months from your practice plan. This is important in that capturing more unknowns and making them known allows you to plan for the now expected expenses you missed on your initial plan. This will give you greater peace of mind.
  3. You will discover your obstacles. You will have the ability now to see where you need to focus your income to meet your plan. Do you need to  increase the amount of take home pay in the bank? Is it reduce debt? Reduce more expenses? The two month practice session will show you what is blocking your ability to live on income and expenses that make sense.
  4. You involve your family without the stress of loss of income. Look, losing a job is tough on your family. But, if you have gone through the practice session without having lost your job, the process is now not threatening and doesn’t involve all the emotions that tie to making the living adjustments. It’s practice. Having gone through it once means if you do get laid off, your family will have had the practice. It makes a bad situation easier.

Now, you may come out of this practice realizing you are not ready for a layoff. But at least you should now know — and your family knows — what needs doing to get you ready for a layoff. I’ve always advocated having one year’s take-home pay in the bank. A whole year. Nothing beats anxiety — or desperation — like money in the bank. A practice session will tell you what needs doing.

If you do get laid off, you will go through many emotions (as described in How to survive a job layoff). That’s expected. But practicing for a layoff, completing your plan to get your finances right and then getting to one year’s take-home pay in the bank means you at least won’t have to worry about caring for your family, paying your bills and keeping your home. And reduce your job stress thinking about a layoff.

A layoff is in your future. Layoffs are in everyone’s future. The Cubicle Warrior knows this and is ready.

Have you ever practiced for a layoff? What did you find out?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

  • What a great article, Scot. You touch on areas that people really are afraid to look at. And given than so many of us will be starting new businesses because the jobs just aren’t there, I couldn’t agree with you more on the 1 year salary savings goals. One of the best articles I’ve seen on this subject. FYI, I’ve given you a shout out. http://www.genplususa.com/im-mad-as-helland-im-not-going-to-take-it-anymore/

  • Scot says:

    Yes, “practicing” for a layoff is a bit weird sounding and hard to do if done right. But, the practice allows you to discover what areas of problems you will have if you really are laid off; priceless education that gives you the ability to correct the areas needing correction.

  • Great article! I like getting away from the rah-rah everything is great attitude. The idea of a “practice layoff” is much more powerful than a Plan B.

  • Scot says:

    @ Cathy — Outside of the benefits of practicing for a layoff mentioned here, I also think the practice tells you a lot about how you would handle different employment options in the future.

    If you wanted to start a business after a layoff, for example, the practice will show how going about that would be if it happened. Or, if you wanted to continue corporate employment, it would show how long you could survive and still have choice in the job you take.

    Practice, of course, is proactive. Not many of us are proactive in these types of career moves. But Cubicle Warriors are…

    Thanks for the comment; I appreciate it.

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