Illustration: Vicky Leta (In-House Art)
It’s been a hell of a layoffs season. With this uncertainty in the labor market—not to mention the bigger picture of a looming recession—it’s natural to feel a sense of helplessness. You can’t live in a constant state of paranoia, but it helps to be on the lookout for some signs that layoffs are coming to your office. Even if you can’t fully prevent yourself from getting laid off, there are precautions you can take once the vibes get ominous.
Here are some of the clues that your workplace is preparing to lay people off, and what you can do to make sure you’re ready if (or when) they happen.
Common signs layoffs are nigh
Only hindsight is 20/20, but there are some signs you can look for now that might foretell layoffs. Of course, nothing here is exactly hard science. Try not to read into every little thing and drive yourself mad with layoff anxiety.
Your company’s finances aren’t doing hot
The most obvious clue that layoffs are likely is whether or not your company is suffering. Of course, some workplaces lay off employees even when they’re making money, and some employers hold onto their staff even as they’re going under. Still, the strongest indicator that a company might start slashing its workforce is if it’s looking desperate to cut costs.
Similarly, talk of a merger or acquisition is a strong sign that some employees will be laid off in the process.
You hear ominous buzzwords
Pivots. Restructuring. Cost-cutting measures. If you start seeing this kind of coded language in company-wide emails, brace yourself for cuts to your team.
You get a bad vibe
If you stop getting invited to meetings, or your start noticing meetings disappear from your calendar, it could mean your company is planning for a future without you in it. There’s a difference between office politics and a serious sense of doom.
It’s a Friday
This one is mostly in jest, but there is some logic to the workplace rumor that layoffs happen on Friday afternoons According to experts in Huffpost, breaking the news on a Friday is the choice for employers who want to give both the laid off employees and their remaining workforce the weekend to process the news at home.
Of course, layoffs can happen any day of the week and at any time. A cheery thought!
What you can do to prepare for layoffs
The best way to prepare for layoffs would be ensuring you’ve always been an invaluable cog in the company’s machine, or perhaps turning back time and fixing the larger economy. Until you figure that out, here are some precautions you can take once you start seeing the signs of an impending layoff.
Back up your important information. If you keep your calendar, contacts, and any personal files on your company-owned computer, make sure to download them to your personal devices. Your employer may shut off your access right when you get laid off, so you should regularly back things up on your own. Take advantage of your health insurance now. There are ways to keep health insurance after losing your job, but it’s wise to stock up on prescription refills and squeeze in any appointments you can now.Secure a positive referral for your next job. Layoffs are cruel and impersonal, but it’s in your best interest to make sure your boss still thinks highly of you on your way out. Focus on your savings. If you predict a loss of income in the near future, you want to make sure you’ve built up an emergency fund to get you through uncertain times.
For more details about what to do before and after being laid off, read our guide here. Check out our tips for coping with layoff anxiety, plus how to explain your past layoff in your next job interview.