Courtney Fells. Courtney Fells
Courtney Felle, 22, works for a rare disease nonprofit and lives in Washington, DC
Felle told Business Insider that, as a chronically ill person, she hopes to be able to continue working from home in the future.
She also told the author Fortesa Latifi why she never wants to work for a company again that doesn’t offer home office opportunities.
The following text is based on a conversation with Courtney Felle, the 22-year-old worker at a rare disease nonprofit living in Washington, DC. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In many ways, the pandemic has been a nightmare for the chronically ill and disabled, not least as they face higher rates of infection and death from Covid-19. But there was also a small ray of hope: Now that a number of employers were suddenly forced to allow working from home, it was proven that it is actually possible to work from home in many sectors without any problems.
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I work at a rare disease non-profit organization where I work with many young adult advocates
I love my work and appreciate my professional success. At the same time, the balance between working a 40-hour week and dealing with my chronic illness exhausts me – even when working remotely.
I’ve seen many employers offer hybrid hours where employees come into the office two or three days a week and then work from home the rest of the week. However, chronically ill people and people with disabilities need more flexibility than that. If I wake up in the morning with a flare-up of pain or severe fatigue, I want to be able to choose to work from home that day without it being a problem.
We’ve proven that remote work is possible, and I think it should continue to be an option for everyone
As a chronically ill person, the past few months of the pandemic have been particularly difficult for me. Suddenly there was this outside urge to “get back to normal” and spend five days a week in the office. However, there are days when I wake up and immediately realize that I have limited energy today. Why should I waste some of that precious energy commuting to work?
Before the pandemic, I didn’t think working from home was a serious option. Today, however, I know that it is an absolute deal breaker for me if a company does not offer this option.
It then gives me the impression that the executives at that company do not understand disability, chronic illness and the impact of ableism in the workplace. That says a lot about the values of this company and acts as a huge red flag to me before the hiring process even begins.
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Now that I know that working from home is possible, it should also become a permanent part of my working life
Being a chronically ill person going through a pandemic is exhausting enough. I don’t need a job that doesn’t respond to needs and gets in the way of change.
As people push to regain some degree of “normality,” I worry that the precautions I’ve grown accustomed to—virtual events, working from home, and digital work materials—will disappear.
When I was a student, I still thought I would one day work in election politics. However, as I began to think more about my life as a chronically ill person and all the entities I had to contend with in the process – my university, medical providers and insurance companies – I realized that I was helping other people wanted who felt the same way.
I did a few internships and made it my goal to work for a non-profit organization in the disability field.
In my current job, it sometimes seems impossible to take care of myself while doing my job properly
Coping with my pain and chronic illness at work is difficult as most 9-to-5 jobs cater to people who don’t have these limitations. In the meantime I have therefore thought about switching to more flexible work options such as freelance work, but I was too concerned about the question of financial stability.
Being a chronically ill person has changed my career path in many ways, including my former desire to work in campaign politics. At the same time, this changed and strengthened my political views at the same time, because I saw how disabled and chronically ill people were pushed to the fringes of society.
If employers learn something from the past two years, it will hopefully be the realization that working from home is possible in the long term
Flexibility is not only possible, but would make life easier for many people. Now that I know how my health has benefited from working from home, I can’t imagine ever going back to a job that requires me to drive to an office five days a week.
My hope is that, in the long term, chronically ill and disabled people will be given the opportunity to work in a way that meets the needs of their illnesses, rather than being forced into schedules and structures that aggravate their illnesses.
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This text has been translated from English. You can find the original here.