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Why I'm Worked Up About Protecting Working From Home

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As we navigate a world changed by the COVID pandemic, the struggles of the mental health/invisible illness community have been given a spotlight. The struggles of not being able to leave the house and the mental strain have been enlightening for many. But there is another area that has garnered so little attention: the ability to work from home.

This lovely ability which so few of us even considered pre-pandemic is now such a staple in the workplace that there have been active fights to go “back to normal.” Seeing articles where people and governments want more butts in seats at offices to ensure “work is being done” or to justify the multimillion-dollar leases/buildings that they have spent money to obtain is infuriating. The constant fighting and arguing about how working from home is hurting the economy and society (really?) is getting tiresome. This is a ruse, in my opinion, and brings up a separate point. Being that we switched to working from home so fast and with such ease, it begs the question, why haven’t we done this sooner for those who can’t work in offices because they have disabilities?

I have worked in an office during the majority of the pandemic and find myself very fortunate to have worked in jobs that have been understanding of my illnesses (fibromyalgia, chronic pain disorder, IBS) even before that. However, more recently, I have been put in a position of a new job and the ability to work partially (hybrid) from home. The difference has been amazing. On days were I have a severe flareup, I am able to use my heating pad and wear comfortable clothes. I can relax my body and not stress out over the constant people at my desk. I do not have to risk my lowered immune system to any and every passing cold, flu, or whatever a few times a week. It is quite lovely.

This comes back to the point at which we must ask, why did we not do this sooner? How long have businesses claimed, “we can never do remote work”? It took them less than a month to get an entire world the ability to work from home during lockdown. Now they want to go back because they want more control. They have never cared about the invisible illness community or those who are immunocompromised or disabled people in general. Workplaces and companies have claimed inclusion but ignored so many people suffering when they themselves took advantage of the situation and got their employees working from home.

There has never been a more shining example of the blatant disregard for those with an illness they cannot control. I have many friends who have difficulties financially and would love to take advantage of the ability to work from home. The technology is here; we have been shown it works. The workplace has adapted and changed forever, and in the best of ways. Don’t let them take back this opportunity.

Of course, not every job can work from home. I understand some industries and businesses require in-person interaction. However, please tell me why data entry and answering phones cannot be done remotely. Please tell me why you don’t want to be accommodating to those who can’t leave the house without risking their safety. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. We have been ignored long enough.

Getty image by Maskot.

Originally published: September 12, 2022
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