The 411 on Working From Home
The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably changed the way that much of the world works. For decades, those who worked in offices did their work entirely from those offices, with the exception of the rare telecommuter after the advent and improvement of the internet. I'm not sure about you, but I envied those people. The idea of being able to work from the comfort of my home always appealed to me. I'm at my best when I feel safe, secure, and am in a familiar, comfortable place. Thankfully for me, that place is my home.
According to Pew Research, "most workers who say their job responsibilities can mainly be done from home say that, before the pandemic, they rarely or never teleworked."
The understanding that one's job could easily be performed from the comfort of their home coupled with the reality of being virtually unable to leave one's home led to a whopping 71 percent of that portion of the workforce telecommuting during the height of the pandemic. What's more, as of late last year, 54 percent of those surveyed said they would want to continue to work from home after the coronavirus outbreak ends.1
This monumental shift in the way Americans work has not just allowed those who previously commuted the opportunity to work from the comfort of their home, spend more time with their families, and drive a booming demand for board games and puzzles to the tune of $15 billion globally. It has also unlocked career paths for differently-abled folks and for those for whom leaving their house is either difficult or impossible.2
Work realities for those with disabilities
Prior to the pandemic, only 36 percent of people who live with disabilities were employed, compared to 77 percent of the total population. And it is not for lack of want: those who live with disabilities and chronic illnesses often want to work just as much as those who are able-bodied.
It is no secret that many disabled people have faced barriers when looking for work, confronting discrimination, and office spaces that can't accommodate their mobility needs. Still, others have seen their requests for flexible working hours and locations turned down, making traditional in-office employment far too difficult.3
Working from home for those who are differently-abled
For years, people in the disability rights community have urged companies to create more accessible and inclusive workplaces, recognizing that, for too long, jobs that we were all told had to be performed from the confines of an office could, in fact, be done from home.
While the pandemic caused reasonable fear and anxiety for most, and especially those who live with disabilities and chronic illnesses, it also provided a window of opportunity for these same activists who have been hoping for the work-from-home tides to change.
COVID-19 changed everything
When the world was forced to adapt to the realities of the pandemic, companies did so quickly. In fact, remote work became the new normal.
According to Haydyn Hammersley, social policy officer at the European Disability Forum, "Working from home is something people have been asking for...ironically companies said it was impossible. It was only when everyone was affected that, suddenly, we were able to work miracles. We learned many things during the pandemic so let's not forget them."4
Some are worried
As more and more people become vaccinated, and as workers begin to trickle back to work, those in the disability rights community are concerned. They fear that the accessibility that came with working from home during the pandemic will be largely stripped from them, and with them, the jobs that have only recently become accessible to so many.
Tips for finding work-from-home jobs
While the tide is in our favor, let's talk about best practices for finding work-from-home positions:
- Be prepared to be internet-connected If you are looking for work-from-home jobs, you are going to have to have a stable and relatively fast internet connection. Several discounted internet programs exist across the country, and they are often subsidized by the government or specifically for those who live with lower incomes. The good news is, once you do land a job, many companies provide employees with the technology they will need to perform the functions of that job, including a computer. Some even offer reimbursements for internet plans. While you aare looking for a job, consider using an existing device to apply for jobs, like a smartphone or tablet, or consider a lower-cost computer option like a Google Chromebook.
- Do a simple Google search There are many websites that host job listings aimed at reaching those who live with disabilities. Some of these platforms include Inclusively, which is "for job seekers with disabilities, mental health conditions, and chronic illnesses." Others, like AskMEO, are dedicated to actively helping disabled folks find meaningful jobs. They maintain an entire network of companies with whom they partner to place disabled people in jobs.
- Find some blogs The internet has made finding information infinitely more accessible than it used to be. It's also afforded essentially everyone the opportunity to write and disseminate information. There are many blogs that exist that are dedicated to those who live with disabilities, including some that give tips for those who are looking for jobs. Blogs like MobilityHive have lists of companies that are actively looking to fill work-from-home roles.
- Leverage your connections Don't yet have a LinkedIn account? Get one, and learn how to use it. Belong to a community like neuromyelitis-optica.net? Start a forum or post in that community's Facebook group and announce that you're looking for new employment opportunities. Be clear and concise about your experience and skillset, and make sure your résumé is up to date. You never know who might see your message and will be willing to help.
Some still prefer in-office work, and they should be accommodated
Let's be clear on this point: for a variety of reasons, even after the pandemic is considered over, many differently-abled folks will want to work in person, and we should ensure that our workspaces, cities, towns, and modes of transportation are accessible to them. This also includes folks who work in the service industry, who have been working in person for a large part of the pandemic.
Have tips for finding work-from-home jobs? Share them with us in the comments!
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