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Working From Home—Defend Your Right

My 32-sq-ft home office

Hello all,

Here is my check-in from quarantine:

My acupuncture clinic closed 2 weeks ago for the duration. My massage therapist works part-time in a nursing home and was definitely exposed to the virus (11 confirmed staff cases, 32 confirmed residents). I don’t dare try another, especially since any therapist who works on me is going to have to review my X-rays, and hooking that up might not be possible right now. My chiropractor is staying home, but his colleague who knows me has agreed to see me today, as I’m in yellow-zone pain, occasionally skating into red. I worry about going to the office, but if I don’t, I’ll have a vomiting migraine by Friday.

The pool is closed, and so is the gym. My bike is my primary exercise, with walking on our 7.5-acre wooded lot second. It’s sunny today but thunderheads are building to the west. To try to help my aching arm and shoulder, I go into the pole barn and grab a crossbar that’s at the right height and gently suspend some of my weight from it.

I’m able to socialize at the recommended distance with my neighbors. That helps a lot. I also attended two meetings on Zoom yesterday. One had no business purpose, I just met Facebook friends in 3 countries.

I’m concerned about continued access to my pain medicine. Because it’s a controlled substance, the pharmacy can’t let me stock up and I have to go in there every 30 days. They won’t deliver it either. The stock level isn’t consistent at the best of times. The only thing keeping me from taking more medicine now is the thought of the supply chain breaking while I’m dependent on a higher dose.

At least my income is stable; only one of my three part-time jobs has been affected, and it was the lowest-paying (and ironically, the most time-intensive) of the three. I’ve already worked from home for the last 10 years, which brings me to today’s topic:  Working from home.

Many of us have wished for a long time that we could work from home, and the quarantine is a dream come true for some. Long before I needed to work from home for physical reasons, I proposed an arrangement as a bicycle commuter. I live in Washington, less than 20 miles from the Canadian border. Our seasonal variation in daylight is huge. In peak summer, the sun comes up around 5:00 AM and sets around 9:15 PM. In the dead of winter, 8:00 AM to 4:15 PM. For a bicycle commuter, leaving home in winter to arrive at work by 8:00 AM can be dangerous. The temperature is still at its overnight low before sunrise, and it was bitterly cold when I had to leave for work at 7:20—as well as pitch dark and icy. By 10:00, it was light out, warmer, and the ice had usually melted from the bike lanes. I started work at home at 7:00, then left for the office around 9:00. I stopped at the gym across the street from the office to shower and dress, and started my office day around 10:00. This harmed no one, but my boss vetoed it after a few weeks, because he was getting complaints from my coworkers who felt I was acting in an entitled manner. The thing is, they would have been free to do the same thing. What they objected to wasn’t my special treatment, it was my modeling behavior that was consistent with the company mission. They wanted to do their environmental compliance work from the seats of their SUVs. I threatened to expose their hypocrisy.

What do your coworkers really object to now? The notion that you can take a quick nap at home rather than hop up on coffee at 4:00 in the afternoon? The fact that the boss can’t see how long you take in the bathroom, or if you check your social media on your phone? They’re going to fight your right to continue to stay at home, in any case. Your bosses are going to fight it too, because they think if they let you stay home, they have to let everyone stay home. No, they don’t. You have a disability, whether or not it’s evident. You have the right to continue working from home when the pandemic danger has passed. They know now that it’s perfectly doable. Stand your ground; don’t let them force you back into the office.

It may be helpful to propose a hybrid agreement like mine with the bicycle commute. Suggest that you come to the office for a designated time each week, like when there are staff meetings, or just to check in. Be there enough to maintain involvement with your work groups and use any on-site equipment you need to for your job. Make a reasonable proposal that your bosses couldn’t argue with, unless they’re complete asshats.

I would also like to see work-at-home facilitation at the individual states’ Departments of Vocational Rehabilitation. I wrote about my state’s agency in this post last year. Our DVR does not even try to meet the needs of clients who are not in the disability “boxes—“ blind, deaf, paraplegic, etc. Their goal is adapt the people to the jobs, not the other way around. We need thought, planning, and advocacy, things the agency is not equipped to deliver.  We need to demand better from them. We pay for their existence, and they don’t deliver the services we need. Worse—they able-splain to us.

There are so many topics to write about with this pandemic; this is only one of a long list. I dearly hope I don’t get to all the topics before things return to some semblance of normal. I dream of staying in a hostel again or sitting in a sold-out concert, how about you? More than anything, I miss the twice-monthly evenings at my neighbors’ house, cooking and eating dinner together and watching a movie after.

I’d like to hear about your work-from-home experience—is it new to you, and how is it working out? Do you want to keep doing it when the danger has passed? (Does it ever really pass for you, if you have an immune system disorder?)

If you would just like to check in and feel seen and heard, feel free to do that too, like I did in my rambling introduction. I wish you enough—enough income and supplies, enough interaction, enough to do in quarantine, enough protection from the virus, and enough of whatever else you need.

Working From Home—Defend Your Right


Kristin Noreen

Kristin Noreen lives in Bellingham, Washington with two cats and her vintage touring bicycle, Silver. Her triple passions are animal rescue, long-distance bike touring, and writing. Her book, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed, is about reinventing her life following a catastrophic injury.


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APA Reference
, . (2020). Working From Home—Defend Your Right. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2020/03/working-from-home-defend-your-right/

 

Last updated: 25 Mar 2020
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