Disability, Not inability: Finding flex to help manage health conditions

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See the ability

Flexibility is needed by so many individuals in a variety of circumstances. When a health condition impairs an persons life, this can compromise the ability to be present at a full time post. Sadly, the concept of presenteeism phases these people out of employment can have very damaging knock-on effect to income, self esteem and quality of life. But as we have heard time and time again, why should committed, talented people have to withdraw from the workplace? Surely an open minded, inclusive employer would see the benefits of retaining their committed staff on an amended working pattern?

Luckily, Julia Seymour found her flex at Young Enterprise Scotland. She cut her hours which allowed her to retain her position...and allowed YES to retain her skillset! Julia wrote a blog for us about her positive experience...

Julia Seymour, Young Enterprise Scotland

Hello, I’m Julia and I work for Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) where I have been working flexibly for the last 4 years and I couldn’t be a bigger advocate for flexible working. You might be thinking that flexibility is for people with children – well for me that ship has sailed – I’m older with disabilities and flexibility definitely works for me!

I’m disabled with ongoing arthritis pain so moving around gets difficult and, were it not for a forward-thinking employer like YES and their flexible working policies I would probably have been on the scrap heap by now! Luckily, Im still a valued and productive member of the team which is a win/win situation from both my point of view and, I believe, YES’s.

I’ve been able to work from home when it’s been difficult to get into the office and with all the tools to hand which enable me to do that, my years of experience and the training YES has invested into developing my skills have not been lost. As well as working from home my hours are flexible too meaning I can spread my working day out over a longer period of time giving me breaks to move around. Being given this level of flexibility has, I am sure, kept flare-ups to a minimum with no undue pressure on me that I have to be into the office for a certain time and, in real terms I have used the wider flexibility element very little. Like a packet of paracetamol sitting in the cupboard, you know its there if you need it so you don’t have to worry which takes off the pressure and means you stay well, in practice I have rarely worked outside my core working hours despite having the option there. This has enabled me to keep well, my self-esteem up and I’m still a productive member of the team.

Lockdown Life

A great benefit Young Enterprise Scotland’s flexibility has had is that when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we already had the tools and procedures in place so that when lockdown happened, there was a seamless pivot into the ‘new normal’ way of working. To their credit, other organisations have approached YES for advice on how to successfully enable a workforce to work from home. As a charity, having the fully functioning fundraisers immediately available to work on our files without going into the office has been essential to keep the momentum going. Everyone is now using Teams or Zoom meetings which has kept ALL staff members up to date from week one in a weekly all staff chat. This means nobody is left wondering what is happening and even those furloughed feel part of the team, this is something that will stay as a valuable practice in the new world.

I think that Covid-19 has moved a lot of organisations into a more open frame of mind when it comes to flexibility, they have had to adapt quickly and naturally into a flexible working environment rather than stopping to think about it and a lot have found that, flexibility works! I would say to any employer, please consider a flexible working policy as the normal rather than the exception, let this momentum carry on and embrace it. When you think about your people consider that a tiger given some freedom is a happier animal than one in four rigid walls and a happier workforce with a healthy work/life balance is definitely a more productive and engaged one. An employee who has rushed to drop off a child at school and rush into the office isn’t going to be as ‘en pointe’ as one who can alter their hours slightly so that they don’t have to stress about their child and stress about work, they will arrive ready to work rather than with half their brain left at the school gates. Moving into the next decade there are going to be a lot more people caring for aging parents and I believe flexible working is going to needed more than ever.

Know your options

If you are seeking to work more flexibly I would say do a little research, get in touch with organisations like Flexibility Works and gather as much information as you can to put your case to your employer, if they can see that the benefits are theirs as much as yours, then developing a flexible working policy is definitely the way to go. A good employer invests a lot in their workforce and if they can alter things a little with a mutual benefit, there are no losers.