I consider myself to be very fortunate to have retained a steady job for 12 years now. For many (far, far too many) disabled people, gaining employment is way more difficult that it needs to be, and attitudes still need to change in many areas. So I do count myself lucky, and I’ve worked hard to keep my position, by doing jobs promptly and to the best of my abilities, and earning the respect of the colleagues and customers that I interact with. And I do like the work, because of the people I share it with, the variety of tasks that I do each day, and the fact that I’ve learned a lot from it over my time there.
Moving to London, however, led me to assume that I would have to ditch that job and get a new one. Not necessarily easy, given that there are so many people in London also looking for work no doubt, coupled with the fact that I have a disability. But I would at least have a good deal of experience to build on and promote myself with. And maybe there would be better opportunities for training and a higher salary with a London-based job. So I was very prepared to go down that route. If it took a little while to find work, so be it. There would be no harm having a change, so it would be worth the effort. But as it turned out, that was one less thing to worry about.
To my surprise, my employer, keen to keep me on, made the offer for me to become a homeworker. So I of course accepted. It takes a big weight off knowing that I still have job security for the time being, and I’m grateful that they respected my abilities enough to put the idea forward. I’m not the first homeworker I’ve got, but I had assumed, as I will be a long way away, and budgets are very tight these days, that it might not be a viable option. So I’m glad I was proved wrong.
Now, that’s not to say that I won’t move on if another opportunity comes up in the city that interests me – it would be daft not to keep my eyes open and consider any chances that come to my attention, if any do. However, I do like my current job and feel a respectful loyalty towards my current employer, so I’m not going to throw it away for no good reason.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past month – working from home. It’s a big change, but so far I’m feeling very comfortable with it. Naturally there have been a few hurdles to get over in terms of the hardware and software configuration, but things are pretty much sorted now.
In particular, my magnification software doesn’t work on the ‘thin client’ machines that other homeworkers in my company use (a thin client is essentially a very small and very basic computer unit, that is purely there to connect you to the main network and computer systems in the office). So they had to give me a standard PC to run my magnifier on, and that is restricted to just using the private network connection. I don’t use any other software on it – I simply run a remote desktop connection from the desktop, which then gets me in to my main computer in my old office, where I can access everything I need. It means there’s a double-layer of security, as I have to use two passwords – one for the physical PC at home, and then another to remotely login to my office computer – and there’s no sensitive data or access to the file directories on the physical computer I’m sitting at. It’s all done remotely. The office phone runs over the network connection as well, all of which is on a separate line to my main home landline. And it all works very well.
Access To Work, incidentally, haven’t paid for the upgrade needed for my magnification software, as it falls below the threshold in terms of cost, so my employer needs to pay (which is fine with them). Yet their letter saying so is a little bit confusing, in that it basically says “your claim for support has been successful, so we’re awarding you nothing!” I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but that’s the gist of it! Evidently they only have a limited number of pre-set letter templates.
But anyway, I’m happy working on my own. There are no distractions, and it’s easy to keep in touch with my colleagues by phone and email. Plus I can now have the radio on as well. I was going to flick through various stations, but I seem to have stuck to Absolute Radio thus far… well, first it was their main station, then I switched to Absolute Classic Rock after a little while. Some of the adverts are irritating, especially the Tradepoint one with its terrible earworm of a jingle, although it’s clearly doing its job given that I feel compelled to mention it! But I prefer the music on the Classic Rock station as well, which won’t surprise you if you’ve seen my previous music collection posts. Suffice to say, it makes it easy to take the occasional little break during the day, as you’re meant to, especially when they play the full version of tracks like Free Bird. Tracks like that don’t deserve to be ignored, and don’t get boring no matter how many times you hear them.
The obvious thing I do miss, though, is the camaraderie with my colleagues. That’s not something you can replicate in a home environment. There is still some element of it in our phonecalls and emails, and we have talked about the possibility of using a webcam for meetings or training sessions. Plus a fair number of my friends there are on social media, so I see them there too. Via both Facebook and email I’ve been sharing a few photos of my time in London so far, so they an see what I’m up to. And I will also be visiting my old home town to see them in person every so often, and anyone who visits London may well meet up with me too. So there is plenty of contact in all of those respects, which helps a great deal. But it’s never going to be the same, I know that.
Without so much of that social stimulation, therefore, one could easily become isolated and lonely – especially when you consider that I’m new to this huge metropolis and barely know anybody. But that’s why I’ve been taking steps to try and avoid that, to get out and about and make some new friends. Hence, before moving, I spent plenty of time doing research into useful online guides and sources of information – e.g. on websites, blogs, Youtube, social media, etc – as well as experimenting with my own blogs and videos too, to see if it generated any useful connections. And it’s already been paying off, if January has been anything to go by, as I’ve had a few interesting experiences already, with plenty more planned during February. And I’ll get on to one or two of those in my next post. 🙂