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Work is Good for You

  • Posted by Bipolar Works
  • 9 Feb 08, 9:54 PM

In my current job, I work 3 days a week. There are various historical reasons for this. A manic episode in the dim and distant past features somewhere. Such an experience kind of put me off from putting myself at any risk ever again. Using twisted logic, I reckoned that by working 3 days a week, I would allow myself time to recover from the workplace on my days off and therefore reduce the risk of any reoccurrence to a minimum.

However, as I am discovering, this can prove to be counter-intuitive. After all, it is a proven fact that work is therapeutic for people with a mental health condition. So I find myself writing articles for the BBC and my own website on my days off to try and fill in the time productively, and stop myself from feeling depressed.

The catch 22 is this. All work can be stressful to a certain degree, otherwise it wouldn’t be work. Starting a new job can be extremely stressful, so how does a person with a mental health condition get over the first 3 – 6 months of a job, where not only do you have to cope with learning new tasks but also have to work out the organisational and office politics and how your new colleagues tick?

Do you apply for part-time work, and then get stuck in a rut doing too few hours in a low grade job? Or do you go in for the all or nothing approach and launch yourself into full-time work?

A possible solution would be to declare yourself as having a “medical condition covered by the Disability Discrimination Act” and ask for the following reasonable adjustments.

• A graduated introduction to work where the hours are gradually increased to full-time work over a number of weeks.

• A graduated introduction to the tasks so that you are not overwhelmed from the beginning. This should happen anyway in theory, but (as we all know) often doesn’t in practice.

And remember, your medical condition is confidential. So don’t let any interviewer brow beat you into telling them as they are not medically qualified. All you need to say is that you are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act and would be happy to discuss it with a medical professional and let them know what adjustments you require.

What do you think? Have you every tried this approach with an employer? Do you think it would work?

• Visit Bipolar Works

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Comments

I'm not sure how well it would work expecting one employer to do it all. After all, if they have a full-time post to fill because there's a whole full-time-person's-worth of work to be done, they're going to want it actually filled, ASAP, not part-filled in the hope that one day it might become completely filled.

My suggestion would be, do voluntary work to provide the flexibility you need to test your boundaries without too many consequences due to changing hours or income (I'm thinking about Tax Credits), and paid work to keep your base level constant. So, do your 3 days paid work, and one morning of volunteering. If it goes well, build to two mornings, if it goes badly, cut back again and regroup. Eventually you'll build up to a 37-hour week split over your two jobs, and then, once you know you've got that nailed, you can let your paid employer know that you would be interested in more hours if/when they become available. In my experience, volunteer employers would be very understanding and supportive about that too.

Good answer! That would be one way round it.

However, always remember, you don't have to negotiate the reasonable adjustments until you have secured the job. Everything is open to negotiation.

If they really want you for the job, they may be prepared to compromise. It has been my observation from working for several employers that some jobs can remain unfilled for months due to organisational politics and apathy, so what's another few weeks on part-time hours?

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