Pandemic Proved: We Can Be Productive Working From Home
Last updated: June 2022
Since being diagnosed with asthma in 1993, I have been asking for reasonable accommodations at work. Like so many others with asthma, most of my requests were turned down. Especially when I asked to telecommute/work from home. The excuse has always been that employees need to physically be in the office to be productive. That the workplace is the only place collaboration and innovation can happen.
Then, COVID-19 hit. Suddenly, only essential workers were needed in the physical workplace. All employees were now expected to work from home regardless of their desire or ability to do so. Employers quickly found ways to connect and include all remote employees using technology and a bit of creativity. We adapted and, in many cases, increased productivity.
Working from home with asthma: Avoiding triggers
So, when a person with a chronic condition like asthma asks to work from home, there is little desire to help them stay safe, healthy, and productive. But when people who are already healthy have a chance of getting sick in the workplace, we must do all we can to protect them?
Not only could I work from home, but I could experience things virtually that were off-limits to me previously. I toured a museum on my computer screen and streamed Oscar-nominated movies. I attended a music concert from the comfort of my car. I joined work meetings, baby showers, and happy hours through Zoom. I got to participate in everything without worrying about asthma triggers.
Normally, I avoid outdoor concerts because I don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke. Old museum buildings are tricky because they usually require stair climbing. Work meetings and family events are often filled with the fragrance of perfume or personal care products. It was so great to experience these activities and not worry about triggering my asthma or catching an infection like the flu or COVID-19.
It felt like healthy and able-bodied people understood my situation a little more over the last two years. Healthy people got a taste of what it’s like to choose between your health and safety, and your social and work lives. They experienced the same isolation many of us with asthma feel daily.
Zoom meeting fatigue vs. daily life with asthma fatigue
As we decide we have had enough of the pandemic, we are slowly getting back to our pre-pandemic “normal” lives. Of course, this is important for the economy, school children, and for many other reasons. But what will happen to all the access we gained during our lockdown? Now that we have proven we can work from home and still be connected and productive, why are we being asked to come back into public workspaces? I understand that people have Zoom meeting fatigue, but that doesn’t compare to the fatigue we feel from going into the workplace every day which can make our asthma worse.
It seems that people are already forgetting about us. As they move on to in-person events we are once again left behind. I suppose it will be up to us to continue to fight for reasonable accommodations at work, to ask that events are offered virtually so we can attend from the safety of our homes, and schedule the video calls with friends and family.
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