Going to Work – Time for a Rethink?

Preamble

This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disablism Day 2007. I had planned to write at least two, pithy, and thought-provoking posts, but am just too tired and uninspired. Maybe something else will emerge tomorrow now that the rules have been relaxed (posts do not have to be made on the day).

Do we need to go to work?

For the last 4 years, I have been fully self-employed. Unfortunately, this employment has not been particularly fruitful as for those same 4 years, my health has declined and I have been in varying states of incapacity as a result of severe fatigue issues caused by sleep apnoea and an endocrine system that is fit for the scrap heap (oh, that we could pick up human replacement parts at the local Organs-R-Us). However, even when the number of hours that I have been able to work per week has reduced to single figures, the way in which I work allows me to carry on nevertheless.

As a freelance software developer and IT consultant, my home provides me with an almost perfect working environment where I can work when I want – going into the office because you’ve woken up a 3am with a good idea is not always practical – and with few distractions. (Latterly, this has been a case of me working when I can.) As one who finds social interaction during work a distraction if not an annoyance, I am quite comfortable with this fairly solitary way of life, especially when I can communicate electronically with my peers across the globe when I need or want to.

There are many jobs where working from home is simply not an option and there are many people who are themselves unsuited to this type of environment. For those where this “teleworking” would be practical, I would like to see more employers giving offering this opportunity.

If I were back working for someone else, my health situation – let’s call it disability because, for all intents and purposes, it is – would have seen me unable to go to work on a regular or predictable basis. (I never know day to day what I will be capable of doing tomorrow). This would render me totally ineffective as far as the employer were concerned, see me being paid sick leave and then finally ousted, should the employment laws support this. If however that employer were canny, I could work from home on a part-time or casual basis, still be productive for my employer and – at the of the day – still be employed.

So far, I have looked at this from the perspective of someone who has become disabled whilst already in employment. Consider now people who have issues similar to mine or have some other impairment that prevents them going to work. They may even have a disability that warrants a full-time carer; this does not, however, mean that they need to (or want to) be unproductive.

We could say that the employer who does not offer a teleworking opportunity to an appropriately qualified person is no less discriminating than if they refused employment because it would mean installing a wheelchair ramp.

Please, employers, give this your consideration; you may be missing out on some valuable talent

Update – 13 May 2007

Since writing this article, CIO.com has published an article, Getting Clueful: Seven Things the CIO Should Know About Telecommuting, which is well worth a read.