It’s funny how something is now suddenly, completely possible when it is time for healthy, able-bodied people, including middle and upper management, need to do it. And I’m glad that people have the ability to work from home right now while we’re dealing with COVID-19. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful that the opportunity is there for some. My issue? That it should have been there for all of us, but especially the disabled population, with a lot more ease.
I won’t talk about the environmental benefits to working from home, though they’re there. Imagine how much carbon emissions we’d be preventing from entering into the atmosphere if people worked from home more often. While my commute is relatively short at 30 minutes/25 miles one way, I am now reducing five days a week travel into town to 1 and that’s just for groceries and livestock feed. That’s saving money, wear and tear on my car, but also saving that carbon that might have gone into the atmosphere.
It’s also healthier for me. Close to 10 years ago now, when I worked graveyard shift on Wells Fargo’s help desk, I worked from home. I loved it. I felt safe in my own home, got to work in my pajamas, and it allowed me to far better manage my fibromyalgia symptoms such as light sensitivity. However one day a month we had to go into the office to meet with our managers. Turns out mine was in another state and 1 or 2 hours behind me depending on the time of year.
So I’d go into the office at 10pm, me and one unknown and always-changing security guard. I’d be there by myself. Meet with my manager via video conference about midnight and then stay there until 6:30 in the morning under harsh fluorescent lighting. Needless to say it killed my sleep schedule. Needless even more to say it didn’t help my anxiety. I asked for an ADA accomodation, explained i lived 5 minutes away, worked from home every other day of the month, and thus, could meet with my manager and the easily, so easily, drive home, be logged in and ready to finish my own shift at home.
Apparently that proved too much burdon to even consider because my paperwork was lost. Sent back in again. Then simply never responded to. (That was also about the time the bullying and harassment started.) Now I’ve had people tell me to get over it, and yeah, at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s bad behavior from a company that showed itself ready to do far worse to employees and customers alike. I suppose I should count myself lucky. But yet, it also so perfectly encapsulates the experience that many disabled workers have trying to get simple, reasonable, even super easy accomodations like the one I was trying to seek.
And now, tada. It’s magic. We’re all working from home. The question remains? When this is over, will we continue to work from home, benefiting ourselves and our environment (next week I’ll talk about how remote work is healthier for us spoonie people), or will we go back to the status quo. And if so, how will that affect our disabled and marginalized workers, especially those of us without much medical care and/or protections? (Because so much of our current disability law requires on a doctor’s note.)
I sincerely hope that people are able to find remote work and we take good care both from a corporate, but also as a societal standpoint, of our workers who can’t. My heart goes out to our medical workers, our teachers, our service workers, and those who don’t have that kind of protection. And I hope, that when this is over and we’re all back to “normal” that we take the lessons that we’ve learned about health and working and apply them in good ways. We all deserve to be treated better.