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COVID-19 Proves Workplace Accommodations Are Possible

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Embracing diversity in the workplace is possible. The devastation of the global COVID-19 pandemic has taught organizations, employers and employees this.

Only a few years ago I was disillusioned. I was at a loss as to how I could balance a fulfilling career with the demands of living with a chronic illness (multiple sclerosis).

I knew I had to make concessions. I always considered whether I could realistically fulfill the physical demands of certain roles. But also whether the work related stress would compromise my pursuit of wellness. However, it became clear that many organizations either didn’t know how, or perhaps didn’t see the benefit of, embracing diversity in the workplace.

To put voice to my frustrations I decided to write a blog.

A way of educating employers as to how they really can create workplaces that embrace diversity.

A few years ago on behalf of others living with chronic illness and disability I asked employers to:

Be flexible. Consider flexible working arrangements. A different start or finish time; the option of part-time hours or even job sharing.

Be innovative. Technology means we can stay connected even if not always in the office. A computer at home, teleconferencing — there are many options.

Be accommodating. An ergonomic chair and desk. A parking space to ensure accessibility. Such examples will minimize fatigue, assist in pain management and maximize productivity.

Be approachable. I don’t want to expend energy trying to hide my symptoms for fear of repercussions. A few minutes to let you know will let me focus on what’s important: creating the best environment possible for work

Be inclusive. Have a workplace that reflects the diversity present in our community. Internally your workplace will benefit from new perspectives and insights. Externally you will experience greater connection to your customers and clients.

Be a leader. It is time for people living with disability to be included. You can have an impact. You can help break down the barriers. You can be a workplace success story that will inspire others.

Be excited. Be excited about unimagined possibilities. This has been my motto. Take on a challenge and be surprised by the outcome.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that everything I asked a few years ago really is possible.

This year organizations have needed to be flexible, hours of work and establishing working from home protocols. Innovative service delivery has become a must. As we as a new reliance on technology to remain connected.

Workplaces have had to accommodate social distancing requirements. Stopping the spread has required approachable managers, an open environment for disclosing symptoms and the requirements of self-isolation.

During this year employers have relied on inclusive workplaces. Everyone has had to band together to navigate through these uncharted waters.

The paradigm shift I was asking for a few years ago is happening. The way organizations have approached employment prior to the pandemic has significantly changed.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Spoonie Life Hacks group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Make life with chronic illness a little bit easier. Join the Spoonie Life Hacks group to get tips from other spoonies for tackling everyday tasks — and share your own hacks! Click to join.

Again I ask employers to demonstrate leadership.

COVID-19 has given you an insight into some of the challenges experienced in living with chronic illness and disability.  The isolation. The frustration. The lack of freedom.

Then there is the impact an illness can have on your business and your career. The loss of income. The reality of unemployment. The fear of an unknown future. The impact on your mental health.

COVID-19 has taught you how to create a workplace that can embrace diversity. When we get through this pandemic please don’t leave people living with chronic illness and disability behind.

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year. But we can all be excited about a “COVID-normal” future that celebrates and embraces diversity within the workplace.

Getty image MamikaStock

Originally published: December 3, 2020
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