Does Remote Work?

How hybrid models are limiting accessibility.

As I am writing this, I am in bed, propped up by five pillows and barely able to keep my eyes open. 

The fatigue is hitting me hard.

What you are reading is a heavily edited version that I have revisited when I can stay awake for more than five minutes.

Fortunately, I am on annual leave today so I don’t have to worry about work. But I’m already worried about being well enough to go into the office on Wednesday (it’s currently Monday).

The shift to remote working has given me access to the workplace in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before. Unless I dedicated my entire life to making sure I can go into work five days a week. And who wants that?

I am incredibly grateful that remote working has become the norm, however as everyone shifts back to the pre-pandemic way of life, hybrid working is taking over.

Naturally, most people see this as an ideal middle ground between working from home and being in the office. Avoid the daily commute but still get to see your co-workers a few times a week; it’s the best of both worlds.

Or at least it should be.

I thought this would be an ideal set up for me, but the reality is there’s more pressure to be well on a particular day every week.

This isn’t achievable when you’re chronically ill.

I cannot guarantee that I can always go into the office on the same day every week.

I might not be able to leave my house to go to work.

But that shouldn’t be a problem. 

We have ample evidence that remote work is both efficient and effective. So why is there such a push to go back into offices?

I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say that, in my case, a lot of the pressure to be in the office is internalised. There has been no pressure from my employer, who has been incredibly accommodating. It is my fear that people will think I’m not trying hard enough.

That I don’t care. Or I’m lazy. Or any other of the million ableist messages that I’ve internalised. 

Working when you have a chronic illness is something of a minefield; one wrong move and it can all blow up.

But that doesn’t mean that it will. And there’s no point living as though it will.

All I can do is try my best to let go of all the internalised pressure and make my job work for me. Whether or not my coworkers think I’m lazy doesn’t change my reality. 

I know that I’m not and that my health places limitations on how I do my job.

That needs to be enough. 

I need to be enough.

However, the real problem is with work places reintroducing unnecessary requirements for employees to be in an office. The pandemic has shown how to successful remote working can be and given us methods to increase accessible opportunities for disabled people.

Remote work is the key to me being able to work full time. I cannot make it into an office 5 days a week, but I can make it to my laptop.

More and more job adverts are shifting to a required hybrid model, particularly at entry level, but this fails to consider situations where a fully remote work option may be the only accessible option.

I understand that a hybrid model may be most able-bodied people’s preference, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Advertising the flexibility of your hybrid model is great, but you need to make it clear just how flexible it really is.

By hybrid model, do you mean I must be in the office 2-3 times a week or can I come in only when I’m able?

If I need to work remotely 100% of the time, will that be a problem?

Because if so then your workplace isn’t as accessible as you may think it is.

~~~~~

Read more of my thoughts on disability and chronic illness here.

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Am I Disabled?

And who does or doesn’t count.

Chronic Illness:

As someone suffering from a chronic illness, whether or not I ought to consider myself disabled is difficult question to navigate.

When I was first diagnosed, it felt like a land-mine of a question, with so many conflicting opinions surrounding me. I was at a loss.

For a long time I had no idea what was wrong with me, how long it would last or how to manage it, and that had to take precedent over personal identity questions.

But that didn’t stop it always buzzing around my brain.

I have days where I can’t get out of bed because I’m in so much pain but I also have days where I can go about day-to-day life with minimal impact. So without a diagnosis and having a condition that’s constantly fluctuating, I had no idea where I stood.

When I need a stick, I definitely felt disabled, but when I was wearing heels and dancing in a club then no, I didn’t.

However, I ultimately realised that didn’t matter, what mattered was that my chronic illness was limiting my life.

It was disabling me.

And I don’t say that as either a good or a bad thing, I say that just as a fact. I had to stop running, I need grocery deliveries, sometimes I can’t cook my own meals. None of things are bad, they are just my reality.

So, yes, my chronic illness does make me disabled.

Autism:

This is the one I am still grappling with and truly do not have an answer for.

I know that a lot of autistic people consider themselves disabled, and I fully support that.

However, I am still very early on in identifying as autistic and figuring out what that means for me. It took me a long time to identify as disabled when I first became ill and so I am allowing myself the same time with autism.

There is no rush and no pressure to figure this out, and that’s something I have learned from experience.

Maybe in a year I will consider being autistic a disability, or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s fine, I’ll just wait and see how I feel as I figure out what it means to be autistic, for me.

So am I Disabled?

Yes. I am disabled.

I know this because my life is regularly altered by my health. I face various limitations as a result of chronic illness and wider society is not set up in a way that is always accessible to me.

But I also know this because it is how I feel comfortable identifying. For a long time I didn’t feel comfortable identifying as disabled, adn that was ok, I was still figuring my disability out.

Now I see labelling myself as disabled as useful and empowering. It allows me to tell others that I may have additional access needs and it lets me connect with other people that have similar experiences.

I am disabled. And that’s a good thing.

Why can’t I stop watching Grey’s Anatomy?

It’s a Sunday evening, my girlfriend’s away and I have a few free hours with nothing to do, so how will I fill this time? I could read a book, bake a cake or do some creative writing, but do I choose to do any of these? No. I choose to sit down and start watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning again.

For those who don’t know, Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama that started in 2005, following the staff at a fictional Seattle hospital. It has been incredibly successful, wracking up an impressive 380 episodes and season 18 set to air this week . Earlier this summer I decided the watch it for the first time, starting from the very beginning, and I quicky became obsessed. I watched it at a frankly unacceptable pace and would constantly bring it up in conversation, unable to think about much else.

Now I should clarify that it’s not unusual for me to marathon a TV show like this, it’s something that I will often do, however the extent to which Grey’s Anatomy was occupying my brain, was reaching an entirely different level. When I was watching the later seasons of the show, I was becoming nostalgic for the early seasons and already wanted to restart watching it from the beginning…..while I was still watching it.

So for those who haven’t figured it out yet, I am autistic. And Grey’s Anatomy had become a new special interest for me.

This is a pretty new revelation for me; self-diagnosing as autistic and waiting on a referral, but it has completely changed the way I understand myself and the things I do.

I’ve always felt slightly on the outside of things or as though there are a set of unwritten rules that I don’t quite understand, but it was ony after further reasearch that I realised I might be autistic. Women often present autistic traits very differently to men, which leaves a much lower rate of diagnosis and increased misunderstanding of what autism is.

This left me feeling very isolated when I was younger, developing a lot of anxiety and masking a lot of my natural behaviours in an attempt to fit in. This means that I am now gradually unpicking traits that I have long since learnt to mask.

One such trait is my incredible ability to marathon a TV show and learn everything there is to know about it. This is something I have always done with TV shows and movie franchises and seem unable to avoid. So why should I?

I’m sure there are lots of people who think it is a waste of time or useless information but if I enjoy it then I don’t see how it can be. I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit that my knowledge of Grey-Sloan Memorial is not exactly helping me out in life, but I also don’t care.

I am autistic and my special interest in Grey’s Anatomy makes me happy.

I know this has deviated from my usual book-related content, so let me know if this type of post is something you would like to see more of.

Thanks for reading!

Audiobooks Count and this is why.

Whether listening to an audiobook counts as reading is a big point of contention within the book community. I wanted to throw in my 2 pence as someone who has days when I rely on audiobooks.

I have a chronic illness called Functional Neurological Disorder that can leave me in bed for full days, barely able to process full sentences or open my eyes. As you can imagine, days like these aren’t the best; enter an audiobook. On my worst days my only saving grace can be a good audiobook.

I can’t concentrate on reading or even hold a book sometimes, but I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to watch tv. This leaves no better solution than an audiobook. Audiobooks distracts me from any chronic pain, but require next to no energy from me. I love to read more than anything else, it’s my favourite thing to do, and being able to when I am my most ill means everything. Audiobooks can be the only way for me to pass the time.

When someone says that an audiobook doesn’t count they are taking away something that gets me through my worst health days. They are diminishing what little I can do on and undermining my choice to read in whatever way best suits my needs.

The refusal of some people to recognise audiobooks as reading is a fundamentally ableist belief. It is excluding people by saying that if they struggle to read a physical book they aren’t reading. Telling people with learning disabilities that audiobooks don’t count is nothing but gatekeeping. They may have struggled with reading for years and found audiobooks to be their only option.

An able-bodied person may not realise just how heavy a book can be, but sometimes even a kindle can be too much. I regularly experience a tremor in my hands and holding a book simply isn’t an option, but that doesn’t need to stop me reading.

It should not matter what your personal capabilities are, you can still read if you want to. Audiobooks are just another way for more people to find joy in books and that’s never a bad thing.