How Flexible Work Allowed Me to Be Myself, Illness and All
My career goal since I was 18 years old was to work as an engineer in motorsport, no matter the sacrifices, hard work or cultural issues I would encounter. I went to the UK for my Masters degrees and I got a dream job in race car aerodynamics back home in Toronto. Everything was lining up, so I could put all my education to use and work in an industry that I was passionate about. But there was a catch.
Traditional Work Environments Are Not Flexible
As I continued to push down this career path, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, for which there is no cure. I wasn’t going to let this illness take away everything I’d worked for, so I hid it from my workplace.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, adding another “weakness” to my roster of perceived deficiencies was not an option.
My workplace demanded long hours, hard work, and coping in an incredibly stressful environment. I’d be at the office all weekend, trying to hit unrealistic goals, prove myself to people that didn’t believe in me, and show that the technology was accurate. I’d then show up on Monday by 9am, and continue on, as if I was perfectly healthy. There was a culture of face time in my past work, where the longer you were there or the later you sent the email, the more respected you were.
I only had 10 vacation days and 10 sick days a year, which were mostly eaten up by specialist appointments, tests, and periods of time when my disease was flaring so badly I couldn’t leave home. Years under these working conditions did no good for my health. I became so ill that I had to tell management why I was going to need more time off than the company would allow. To their credit, they tried to work with me and were understanding, but the system does not allow for people like me to be themselves–sick, vulnerable and requiring flexible work hours.
Defining What Flexible Work Needed to Be for Me
I began to consider what would actually work best for me, not how I would fit into the corporate machine. I knew that I worked better on my own, without the distractions of a busy engineering office. I knew I could offer a ton of value to other businesses and I was willing to start from square one and learn the required skills.
I started to search for a way to support myself that would, at the very least, stop making me more sick and stressed out. My disease wasn’t going anywhere, so I needed work that would fit around doctors appointments and bad days without needing to offer an explanation. If I could just work from home, I would be able to eliminate a long commute and spend that time actually getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
On top of the need for flexible work hours, I knew I needed to find a work environment that allowed me to be myself: a woman, who often is sick, needs to be in the comfort of her own home, and without the external pressures of a very masculine industry weighing on her. I was tired of putting on a mask every day in order to show up, suck it up, and be tough. It was time to accept myself for who I was, to take off the mask, and find work from home that would support all of me.
Tangible Words Supported Me with Truly Flexible Work
Working for Tangible Words as a copywriter has been life-changing for me. Not only do they provide flexible work from home, but they have shown me what it feels like to be myself at work. I can plan when I want to work during the day, fitting work around other priorities in my life.
I continue to have good and bad health days, and it’s incredibly freeing to be honest with my colleagues when I need some help or a little flexibility in deadlines. The culture at Tangible Words is the opposite of what I came from as an engineer, in that they care more about me and my wellbeing than sales targets and profit margins.
Flexible work, distributed offices, online workplaces and options to work from home are the future of work. We are all adults and can decide what work hours we need, how much work we can handle, and who we want to work with. Tangible Words has already embraced the need for flexible work and is empowering its people to be themselves first and do the work that supports them second.
People Make the Difference in Finding Feel-Good Work
The biggest lesson I have learned in finding work that supports every part of me is that the people are the differentiator.
I had the coolest job in the entire world, but I couldn’t be myself because the culture was not accepting of my gender, values and complete self.
I now let my gut instinct guide who I work with and how I work. In the year that I’ve grown to know the Tangible Words team, I’ve enjoyed my work and my colleagues more than I thought possible. Feel-good work from home, with flexible hours and the freedom to be myself is thanks to the culture of support, work-life balance, and genuine empathy that the founders have embedded.
If you are looking for more flexibility in your work, learn how to apply on the Careers Page.
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