A reporter was interviewing me about chronic illness and working. She was very surprised when I said, “The single most important factor that helps a chronically illl person continue to work is to work in a flexible environment.”
She asked me what “evidence” I have to support this. (Have you noticed how popular that word has become lately? It seem that it’s only true if it’s “evidence-based”.) I responded that I have anecdotal evidence — I’ve seen it myself and heard it from others.
No. I haven’t found any research linking people who continue to work while living with a chronic illness and the flexibility of their workplace (have you?) Unfortunately, it’s not something that seems to be studied. (Anyone want to do this — or fund me to research this?)
I told the reporter that I’d written about this issue numerous times (in my book, Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease:Keep Working, Girlfriend! and more recently, this post, Who Needs a Flexible Workplace?) I’m not an expert nor a researcher. Just a believer.
In the meantime, we’ll rely on our experience. And, the studies that support flexibility for all workers (Making Flex Time a Win-Win).
FYI – I’ve just read a great book on “reinventing” your career, New Job, New You by Alexandra Levit. I like that she offers good stories of people who’ve done this and has solid tips. Although it doesn’t touch on chronic illness issues, you can do the translation.
When I’m working with clients who are changing careers or even their jobs, I encourage them to make flexibility a top priority. I’ve noticed that this isn’t obvious to those with new disease onset. It’s hard to imagine how chronic disease waxes and wanes, requires periodic doctors appointments often during the work day and can have different symptoms that come and go. But live with disease for a few years and you can see that this is one unpredictable beast that can upset any schedule.
Do you have any reason to think that this isn’t important? I’d love to hear it.
Yes. We must have easy access to high quality health care. But just as importantly, we must be able to find a decent job at a living wage that allows us to take care of our health. And the code word here is flexibility.