Considerations of Working With an Autoimmune Disability at the Semco Style Institute
by Helen Rossi.
About the Author
As a marketing associate with Semco Style, I have found this to be particularly true. I have arthritis, an autoimmune disease that leaves the joints in my body red, swollen, and painful. Sometimes arthritis can make it difficult for me to leave the house or drive my car. Working remotely at Semco has shown me how valuable the virtual work environment can be. Without the pressure of needing to commute to a job, I can work efficiently from the comfort of my own home.
Interning at Semco Style Institute, I have been able to work on my own time. With arthritis, I can get flare-ups, in which my symptoms are particularly painful. Because I have flexibility in my schedule, I am able to work productively when I am feeling well and rest when I need to. I also have the ability to work around important doctors’ appointments and physical therapy.
Semco Style Institute has made me feel that I am a valuable member of the team, regardless of my disability. Companies around the world can learn from the flexibility, autonomy, and generosity by which Semco Style Institute lives up to.
For people with disabilities, the practicalities of in-person work can pose a barrier to effective and productive employment. Remote work could offer a viable solution: working from home could provide the flexibility and opportunity that people with disabilities need to thrive.
What does statistics say?
Working with a mental or physical impairment is a common issue for people across the globe. About 15% of the world’s population, or 1 billion people globally, have some type of disability. Disabilities can take many different forms – they can be intellectual, physical, or involve visual or hearing impairment, to name a few. Disabilities also greatly range in severity: while some people are only slightly affected, about 200 million people experience disabilities that interfere with their everyday life.
Although many people suffer from the complications of their impairments, people with disabilities do not represent a proportional number of the global workforce. The United Nations estimates that 50 to 70% of people with disabilities are unemployed in developed countries. In developing nations, the figures are even more bleak: only 10% of people with disabilities have jobs in some places.
Many people have the implicit belief that these statistics are justified. They would say, “Of course people with disabilities are less employed – they are less physically or emotionally capable of completing the task at hand.” This assumption, however, is a great misconception. In most instances, people with disabilities are just as qualified and apt at a specific skill. Often, employers will be less likely to hire someone with impairments because they are concerned that their disability will interfere with their ability to do their job. They also may worry that they will have to spend the organisation’s time and funds providing their differently-abled employees with costly accessibility measures.
Why are people with disabilities less likely employed?
People with disabilities may be less employed because the feasibility of working in an in-person office is too troublesome. It can be difficult for those with physical impairments to drive to and from work. Many differently-abled people require adapted transportation vehicles, which can be expensive and difficult to find. Public transportation options, such as buses or metros, can also be impractical for someone with hearing or sight problems or a wheelchair.
In-person work can additionally be problematic for those with mental disabilities. For example, for people with depression, anxiety, or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), it may be challenging to sit in a chair all day long at work or concentrate for hours at a time. For Dan Maudsely, a 38-year-old broadcast journalist for BBC, his difficulties with ADHD significantly impacted his ability to work in an in-person environment.
How does remote work benefit people with disabilities?
For those with mental and physical disabilities, remote employment can provide an effective and viable solution to many problems that in-person work engenders. Remote work has already begun to transform the future of companies and organisations. If employees can work from wherever they want, businesses can hire people from a diverse array of backgrounds from all around the world.
Before the pandemic, many companies were reluctant to hire people with disabilities because they were worried that they would not be able to perform efficiently in an in-person office space. However, the remote work that has become common has made companies realise that it is possible for employees to be productive working from home. This shift in attitudes has been greatly beneficial for the differently-abled. If remote employment is made customary for the global workforce, people with disabilities may be able to obtain and retain jobs more easily, without the hassle of traveling to and from the office.
Remote work also allows people to work on their own time instead of being required to put in the traditional 9-5. People with disabilities can choose the times that work best for them to work instead of working on a set schedule. For example, those who have mental impairments would not be forced to work when feeling anxious or depressed. Instead, they can choose times when they feel most productive to work. For people with physical disabilities, this flexibility in work schedule can also be helpful should they need to work around doctor’s appointments.
What are companies saying?
Most companies acknowledge that people with disabilities are significantly underrepresented within their organisations. Similarly, 87% of large companies worldwide have stated that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives were a top priority for their company. To achieve this diversity, it is imperative for businesses to hire people with disabilities.
What does research say?
Employing people with disabilities is both an ethical and a financial choice. Research has shown that companies that have diversity in differently-abled employees perform better. A study done by Accenture, Disability, and the American Association of People with Disabilities found that these companies had about 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profits.
These statistics make sense. If more companies considered hiring differently-abled employees to work from home, they would have a greater range of talent from which to choose from. Additionally, they would have a diverse array of opinions and perspectives in their workplace that could make their company more efficient. People with disabilities make up a sizable portion of the world’s population. So, it’s essential that companies hire them to better understand their needs on the consumer side.
People with disabilities generally make successful employees. They are often adaptable, flexible, and resilient in character because of their life experiences with their impairments. Thus, people with disabilities are a valuable addition to any company’s team.
The idea to run a company on standards of respect, flexibility, and accountability began with founder Ricardo Semler in the 1980s. When he took over his father’s business, the Semco Group, Ricardo Semler restructured the organisation by delegating autonomy and decision-making power to his workers. By democratising the company, Semler grew his company exponentially and raised revenue by over 200 million dollars.
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