How My Employer's Support Helps Me Work With a Disability
I’ve been asked for a decade how I continue to work full-time and have a stressful and rewarding career despite my plethora of illnesses and disabilities. In a nutshell, my employer and I work very hard to create a schedule and environment that suits my medical needs.
If you just scoffed at the thought of such a partnership, I hope you’ll read on to learn what else you may be missing out on. I may be lucky, but I’m not alone in my good fortune.
Companies that genuinely understand and see value in employees with disabilities do exist. The opportunity to make a living and feel self-worth is a movement we need to talk more about.
Enter my employer, CareerBuilder.
I have a lot of grit and ambition, but having an employer who recognizes my potential is a critical factor in my success.
Despite many doctors who recommended I stop working due to fibromyalgia, psoriatic rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s and chronic fatigue syndrome and come to terms with my “new life,” I kept on.
The accident that led to my first diagnosis happened while I was on my way to the airport to meet a client. You can read about my initial diagnosis here. The next year was pure, unadulterated torture; I suffered a series of onslaughts on my body and subsequent years of total annihilation of who I once was. Did it affect my work life? Absolutely.
From what I have heard from so many of you, many employers would have decided to part ways at this point. Not CareerBuilder.
Below, you’ll read about changes, big and small, at my workplace resulting from conversations I had with my employer after my diagnosis. It’s likely that your boss won’t reach out to ask about your new reality, so consider it your responsibility to inform them of any limitations or needs stemming from your diagnosis. Here are a few ways CareerBuilder demonstrates that they value me, illnesses and all.
Five years doesn’t sound like “too old” for an office chair, but as my conditions worsened, my body cried out for better support. I shared this during a visit to my rheumatologist and was delighted and surprised when he handed me a note essentially prescribing a new chair to ease my pain. Upon seeing the note, my employer placed an order and had a comfy replacement delivered the next week. Who knew, right? You’ll be amazed at how accommodating most employers will be, but to find out you have to ask.
To ensure I’m at my best when I travel for work, my bosses and I discovered that flexibility and extra time make all of the difference. To avoid flare-ups and downward spirals, I never, ever take early morning flights. For morning meetings, I fly in the night before and allow my body to get settled before the 16-hour day ahead. This way I can feel my best and do my best for my employer.
I have always pushed my body to the breaking point (which isn’t good, I recognize). However, I can’t help it; I love what I do, and I only have one speed: go. CareerBuilder has a generous time-off policy, and when my body needs to rest, there is never a hesitation from my employer to give me the days off that I need. By providing notice of my inevitable rest periods, I also diminished the fear and guilt often attached to asking for time off.
This topic requires some thought and planning. When first diagnosed, I visited the doctor twice a week. When I started acupuncture, I needed a full day to recover after my eight-needle-eight-minute session. My medical needs are always changing, and with CareerBuilder’s open-door policy, I’m able to communicate my treatments and explain that they’re necessary for me to function at optimal levels.
Working from Home
Mutual trust is a must. CareerBuilder trusts that my work will continue whether I’m at a doctor appointment or home in bed, healing. I have confidence that CareerBuilder recognizes the caliber of work my teams and I produce so when I need to manage my health, they’re always by my side. This flexibility shows me I’m valued and allows me to remain a contributing member of the company.
“You’re here because we know you can do the job and we know you. Your illnesses are a part of what makes you, you.” That has been said to me multiple times after insecurities about my conditions surface. Though my body is at war with itself, my brain, work ethic, and my results are validated and valued. How’s that for motivation?
If your condition requires you to consider a new career path or find a side job, keep your chin up; there are multiple avenues you can take, utilizing a broad array of skills, and your can find jobs offering flexible schedules and work-from-home options.
It’s worth repeating: an employer that can see beyond your illness does exist. Don’t settle for anything less. CareerBuilder is an excellent example for working with people with disabilities, and I look forward to learning of others who do the same.