If you live with chronic illness, you’ve probably realized that:
- Symptoms can come and go when you least expect it
- The intensity and how it impacts you can vary
- This can wreck havoc on your job
How do you explain the changes? Yesterday you were able to get to work and do your job just fine. But today you’ve got pain, fatigue or some body part isn’t working and you’ll be a few hours late or maybe won’t be in at all.
One solution is to work “virtually”. Virtual work does not guarantee flexible scheduling – unless you work for yourself or it’s built into the nature of the job you do (e.g., such as writing, research, web design.) But it does cut out a commute and in many cases, it can mean that you have more flexibility to shift your work schedule around your health needs.
I’ve worked with people who have transitioned their jobs from a brick and mortar office to working at home. What I’ve seen is that the key piece is to make sure that there are good reporting and communication systems in place. Expectations about what others can expect and when must be clear to everyone involved. Communications trails have to be documented. In fact, you have to be more precise than when you were in the office.
One client in my Just In Time Career Coaching program found that her supervisor became really difficult when she stopped coming in. But when she explored this further, she learned it had nothing to do with her performance. Her supervisor missed the personal interaction!
I’ve worked with others who found that after they went “virtual”, they were working even longer hours because systems weren’t in place. You can get some good ideas for communicating while working virtually .
I work virtually but for myself. For 17 of the 22 years that I worked in large and small operations, I lived with debilitating diseases. My career skills meant I only had full time and physically demanding options. With two young children, neither my body nor soul were up to it. To keep working, I had to “reinvent” myself. My priority was to work at home. I didn’t intend to work for myself but it happened. As with everything, I can see that there have been positive and downsides to working this way.
- I develop relationships and network, market my services, and work with clients worldwide without leaving my home.
- I don’t waste my the energy on commuting, have to deal with bad weather or worry about finding myself in situations where I’m physically challenged.
- I take the breaks I need when I need them to take care of my body and I don’t worry how this might affect how I’m perceived.
- I design and take charge of my time and energy with no one to thank or blame but myself.
The tough stuff:
- Studies show that working promotes health because it gives you a sense of purpose, creates a schedule and gives you social interaction. But working virtually can be isolating, especially if you’re solo. If you’re struggling with illness, you can lose your sense of purpose and drive without the support of others.
- When I’m not well, I’m alone in this body. Mostly it’s a relief but sometimes it’s weird and it would be nice to have people contact.
- I miss being around people. Although my days are busy talking on the phone and emailing – people who work for me, colleagues with whom I work on projects, and clients, I often miss having that face-to-face interaction.
- Although I don’t miss getting “dressed” for the office, there are days that I’d like a reason to wear a suit. Go figure.
I’m sure I’ve missed some points here. Another perspective is at The Pros and Cons of Working Virtually. Are you a virtual worker? What have you found?