WHY TRADITIONAL 9-5 DOESN’T WORK WHEN YOU ARE DISABLED

Due to various barriers to entering the workforce, and staying there once you’re in, disabled people are more likely to be unemployed or self-employed. Difficulties in accessing education is a massive part of this, but there are various other barriers to work that disabled people face.

The unpredictability of chronic illness

I always find the easiest way to describe what it’s like to live with a chronic illness is comparing it to leaving the house when you don’t have kids and then leaving the house when you do have kids.

Once you have kids there are a whole host of things you have to remember to take with you just to leave the house: from the nappy bag to their favourite toy. Then there is actually getting your kid ready to leave. No matter how prepared you are you can never predict what they will do. Just as you think you are ready to leave the house they will decide clothes aren’t for them and refuse to put them back on, or you find they have hidden their shoes and no matter how much you plead with them they won’t tell you where they are.

The practical problems

It’s the same with a chronic illness. You can plan all you like but symptoms will act up at the worst of times and there is nothing you can do about it. Even if you do manage to make it out the door without a hitch, there is no way of knowing if fatigue or other symptoms will crop up just as you sit down at your desk. That’s if you’re lucky enough to have a desk job. Retail workers are still expected to be on their feet all day, and the gig economy often relies on jumping in and out of cars or vans making deliveries – meaning many disabled people can’t even consider these roles as a source of income.

The commute is another issue. Any form of transport takes a massive amount of energy that many chronically ill or disabled people just don’t have. Honestly, for me, travelling in a car feels like being strapped to the outside of a rocket. As you can imagine, that means a commute isn’t the best way to start the day! All these issues combined can limit disabled people’s job opportunities.

Flexible working can remove barriers for disabled people

Working from home means cutting out the hassle of travelling and being flexible with hours means that if pain or fatigue hits you can rest. All this means disabled and chronically ill people can stay out of a flare, and are able to get more done in the long run. Offering employees ways to improve their own work/life balance can result in huge productivity benefits, and with modern technology there are increasingly few office roles where being physically present should be a core requirement of a job.

Flexible working opportunities therefore make for happier and more productive employees: whether they are disabled or not! However, for those in the disabled community with mobility, fatigue and chronic pain issues, flexible working can be the difference between thriving in a job role or struggling. Empowering employees to fit their work around their needs creates more confident, productive team members and, as we’ve already discussed, disabled workers make some of the best employees around, so let’s work to normalise flexible working.