What I Wish Employers Knew About Crohn’s Disease
Today’s workforce is unlike anything predicted in the past two decades. The internet, along with technology advancements, has opened the door to so many new possibilities in the workforce. But it’s still not enough. While organizations boast about progressive practices such as remote jobs, medical benefits, encouragement of persons with disabilities to apply, and wellness plans. They aren’t necessarily doing as advertised.
I’m speaking from my own personal experience.
Working remotely with Crohn's disease
Prior to becoming disabled due to Crohn’s disease and Psoriatic arthritis, I would ask in interviews if remote work at any time is possible. The mood would shift almost immediately. My question about working remotely might as well have issued a puff of noxious gas. The interviewer went from very into my resume and history, to suddenly over it. One time, I followed up on a rejection letter. I asked if the question was the reason why. For the record, I had not disclosed my condition. They said that I didn’t appear as enthusiastic as other candidates and it probably wasn’t the right fit.
So, my avoiding disclosing my health condition made me appear like a greedy millennial.
Shortly after that call, I stopped asking about working remote. I figured that I could request accommodations if I got the job.
Disclosing Crohn's disease to employers
In instances where I’ve fully disclosed that I have Crohn’s disease, I’ve either disclosed to the person from HR or the hiring manager I would be reporting to. You could count the seconds and tapping sounds between my saying Crohn’s disease and they're looking it up on their cellphone or computer. The usual reply would be, “Oh, I have a (so-and-so) who has Crohn’s."
I never heard back from those companies. While a company can't "not hire you" due to your chronic illness, it doesn't necessarily help to disclose in most cases either.
Once, I had someone ask if my Crohn’s would impact my ability to do my job. SO ILLEGAL. I repeat, for the people in the back, THIS IS ILLEGAL.
It is difficult to find an accommodating job
I would love nothing more than to be able to work full-time from home, with some days in the office and travel. It seems more like a fantasy than anything else. I would love to be a breadwinner in our household once again and take some pressure off of my husband.
I wish that there were more remote jobs that paid more than just above minimum wage. There are a few websites that advertise remote jobs, but they force you to pay for a subscription. I’m not about that, nor do I feel that it is fair for someone looking for employment. I do not encourage people to pay for a website to help you find a job.
For those of us who are on disability, we are aware that there are rules about going back to work. If you make x-amount of money over a certain amount of months, your disability can be shut off. If you relapse, there are safety nets but there’s always a lot of frustrating paperwork to go with it. This is a scary subject for many of us, and it is scary and anxiety-inducing enough to deter some people from trying to get back to work.
You can work part-time or freelance while on disability. However, if you come from a career background, you’re not making nearly as much as you once did. The benefit, though, is keeping skills fresh and helping avoid the awful, “What about this gap in your employment?” question that so many employers ask. But even finding remote work in a part-time or freelance capacity is difficult these days. This is even more interesting if you re-read the first two sentences of this piece.
“Today’s workforce is unlike anything predicted in the past two decades. The internet, along with technology advancements, has opened the door to so many new possibilities in the workforce.”
What I wish today’s employers knew about those of us who have been unceremoniously removed from the full-time work-force is that we want to work. I’ve said this at speaking engagements and health interviews before, and I’ll continue to say it to the end of time is, “We want to work and make your company thrive. In fact, we will probably overwork, because we have something to prove to you and to ourselves.”
How open are you about being diagnosed with IBD?