Migraines and 'ability'

    Granted it’s been over a decade, but when I worked at a university I had to be on the ‘disabled’ register due to my migraines. That meant my line manager could make accommodations such as being sat next to a window so the fluorescent lights didn’t trigger me.

    Almost everyone I know has some kind of medical condition which affects their work to a greater or lesser extent. These are the things that we used to hide, until we realised (perhaps for the first time during the pandemic) that we’re all just temporarily abled.

    This letter in The Guardian is a response to an article about a minister setpping down due to chronic migraines. I don’t get 15 or more a month, as she does, but I probably average 3-4 and, because they add up, it’s imperative that I have flexible working conditions. But then, shouldn’t we all?

    Dehenna Davison has resigned as a minister, citing chronic migraines (Report, 18 September). Migraines are a common and debilitating condition affecting many people; chronic migraine is defined as an ongoing experience of 15 or more migraine days a month. So it is not difficult to imagine how hard it has been for Ms Davison to give the energy she wants to her role.

    But while it is valuable that chronic migraines have been given some media attention, it is also troubling that the message is, unfortunately, that those with such conditions do not have equal value and should quit if they can’t manage the job – a message that many people living with migraines and other long-term conditions and disabilities will be familiar with, whatever their role or employer.

    Managing work, life and migraines takes more than the “patience at times” that Davison thanks her colleagues for. It needs recognition, respect and a commitment from employers to prioritise the health of workers and support them to work with the condition, not drop back because of it.

    Anna Martin Oxford

    Source: People living with migraines need better support from employers | The Guardian

    Natural light as an 'office perk'

    You may not be able to detect it, but fluorescent lights flicker. They trigger my migraines. In fact, they affect me to such an extent that, when I worked at the university, I was on the ‘disabled’ list and had to have adjustments made. These included making sure I sat near a window to maximise the amount of natural light in my workspace.

    In this HBR article, written by a partner at a HR advisory and research firm, the author cites a survey which shows that all employees want access to natural light

    In a research poll of 1,614 North American employees, we found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors are the number one attribute of the workplace environment, outranking stalwarts like onsite cafeterias, fitness centers, and premium perks including on-site childcare.
    One of the best things about working remotely ('from home') is that you can go and sit somewhere that has good natural light. There's a coffee shop near us that has two walls completely made of glass. It's wonderful.
    The study also found that the absence of natural light and outdoor views hurts the employee experience. Over a third of employees feel that they don’t get enough natural light in their workspace. 47% of employees admit they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% report feeling gloomy because of the lack of light.
    The next point is an important one about hierarchies:
    Too often, organizations design workspaces for executives with large windows while lower level employees do not have access to light. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Airbnb has pushed the limits of designing its customer call center operation in Portland, Oregon. Rather than windowless work stations commonly found in call centers, the Airbnb Call Center is designed to be an open space with access to natural light and views of the surroundings while replacing desks and phones with long couches, standing desks and wireless technology. The benefits of these elements is is well recognized. In fact, some European Union countries mandate employee proximity to windows as part of their national building code! This is because they realize that an absence of natural light hurts overall employee experience, up and down the organization.
    I've been reading Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers by Stephen Graham, which explores issues like these. Fascinating stuff.

    Source: Harvard Business Review