We all have witnessed the profound change that COVID-19 brought to businesses in many ways. coBranding was no different, but there was one thing we always wanted: For our employees to feel comfortable and safe. Based on this, we have an unlimited remote work policy that has been extended to all employees even beyond the eventual end of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have streamlined all of our internal processes to be accessible entirely online, so that any of us can work from anywhere. Our sales and marketing coordinator Jess lives several states away from the rest of the team and expressed concern about her ability to manage working from home when she first started working with us. After being with us for a while, she felt inspired to explain how remote work has changed her life and why employers should consider unlimited remote work policies whenever possible. Here are Jess’s thoughts in her own words!
Back in March, I had to leave both of my former jobs (one in retail, one in my field of study: human services) due to the pandemic, as I have Cystic Fibrosis which puts me at high risk of increased complications and mortality should I contract the virus. When I saw Rachel post her job opportunity for coBranding over the summer, I immediately looked at my partner and said “Hey, my friend Rachel is hiring. The position offers unlimited remote work. Do you think I should message her?”
His response was skeptical, and that was understandable to me. We both have ADHD and we had the same concerns regarding getting distracted, motivation-based executive dysfunction, and more. But I had been out of work since March, I was feeling pretty hopeless about ever returning to work in my field of study, and I recently started taking medication for my ADHD. With all of that considered, I decided to give it a shot.
Before I started, I gave myself a few rules:
I will not leave my office unless I have to go to the bathroom, it’s time for lunch, or it’s an emergency.
I will plan my days meticulously, down to the hour, in order to maintain a strict schedule while maintaining flexibility should other priorities arise.
I will not be afraid to ask questions, no matter what. This was big because I have a prominent fear of “looking stupid” and therefore being rejected.
Firstly, I am so incredibly grateful and lucky to have a boss and coworkers who are not only completely willing to teach me everything I need to know and answer any questions I have, no matter how simple the answer may be, but also extraordinarily tolerant and even supportive surrounding my neurodivergence. I feel totally comfortable messaging the people I work with to say “Hey, I am having a really hard time focusing on this task today, even with my medication,” and that kind of support and acceptance is sadly very rare to encounter in a work environment for people like me.
With that said, I was wildly surprised by my experience working from home. Not only was staying focused not very much of a challenge (within my first two weeks I only had one “off” day. I was expecting far worse), but the routine that working remotely provided me with also brought me the ability to consistently take care of my Cystic Fibrosis at a level that I hadn’t seen in years. Routine is something that is crucial for almost everyone, but especially for people with chronic illnesses and people who are neurodivergent. I used to struggle to remember my medications and treatments, and even if I did remember, sometimes motivation-based executive dysfunction would leave me stuck thinking, “I need to do this, and I want to do this… Why won’t I do this?” This would leave me in a state of guilt and shame, which obviously was not good for my mental health and further perpetuated this cycle.
Now I sit down at my desk every morning, put on soothing music, write in my daily planner, and take my morning medications. Later, I start my first breathing treatment of the day. And after work, even though the workday is done, I am more inclined to come back into my office to do my second breathing treatment and take my nightly medication. I don’t have to worry about remembering to pack and bring in a lunch, or consequently, purchasing lunch. I don’t have any stress remembering to bring anything else to the office from home or vice versa. Everything I could ever need is right in front of me or in the next room.
If you are an employer and the work your employees do can be done remotely but you do not currently have an unlimited remote work policy, I hope you reconsider after reading this. My situation is very unique, but the benefits of remote work are the same. I can’t even imagine what my situation would be like if I had children (or any dependent for that matter) or if I had a disability that affected my mobility. And to be quite honest, sometimes you have no idea what your employees are dealing with outside of work. What if working from home could change their lives the way it did mine?
I am not an HR professional. I can’t outline every single pro and con, every measure you can take to make remote work possible, or every incentive you could provide for remote work for your employees. But I do know that remote work has changed, if not saved, my life. I am happier, healthier, and much more motivated to work hard as I work from home, and honestly, I still can’t believe it.
To learn more about Cystic Fibrosis, visit here.