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I'm a developer and I've got chronic pain. This frequently requires me to work from home where I take much stronger painkillers that prevent me from driving, but I am still able to get my work done. I guess in a general sense I have a disability compared to the other employees.

What are my responsibilities as a disabled employee to maintain a positive working relationship with my peers, so they don't feel like I am getting a better deal working at home?

Additional Info As far as what I am doing to manage my disability, I am taking Physio Therapy, and regularly consult my surgeon to manage my pain. I have not run into issues at my current job but in the past I have had employers suggest I'm not doing enough to justify working from home, due to poor visibility, and would like to avoid this sort of confrontation in the future.

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I would appreciate help rewording this question to fit the QA standard, I've tried to make it as non-specific as possible. If there are any laws that apply, I am in Canada. –  Gallen Dec 12 '12 at 18:39
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Is the real issue your disability or the fact that you're working from home in a company that doesn't typically encourage 'work from home'? –  Stephen Dec 12 '12 at 19:58
    
Although it is a new arrangement here, there are a couple of guys that work remotely 100% of the time. Its not an issue in my current workplace. –  Gallen Dec 12 '12 at 20:03
    
@Gallen - Whats the problem exactly if other people are doing it? I wouldn't considered you disabled if the reason your not going into work is because you over medicated yourself. If the side effect of a normal dose makes it hard to drive, that is entirely different, but based on your comments it sounds like you are more then a normal dose. –  Ramhound Feb 19 '13 at 17:23
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The other people have been with the company for a long time, where I was a bit new here. And like I had mentioned, this hasn't been an issue with my current company - but with some past employers. I'm disabled because I've got failing spinal fusions from a surgery 10 years ago. I assure you I'm not taking more than the normal dose, in fact since writing this question I've discontinued taking the painkillers due to the intense and undesirable side effects. Your scepticism is the reason I asked the question :) –  Gallen Feb 19 '13 at 18:20

4 Answers 4

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I think the biggest thing I have seen people working from home get into trouble with is not answering emails, IMs and phone calls. You may think you are concentrating, but the people in the office will assume you are not working. Further when they are stuck waiting on an answer, they can't go to you in person and get it, so you have to at least twice as responsive to other forms of communication as you are when you are in the office.

Also make sure to attend meetings by phone and to let your boss know what you are working on every day (the equivalent of a daily standup meeting in an agile shop). If a project would normally take 3 days, don't spend two weeks at it. People do notice if you are not making the sort of progress they expect. We had to bring one person who worked from home back to the office over this very issue. Suddenly his work got much faster when he was no longer working from home. Be very aware of this.

If you are working with pain and you cannot do a full 8-hour day on a particular day, you are obligated to let your boss know that you worked a half day on Thursday and take your leave to do so just as if you left the office fora half day off. This will help a lot lot in setting expectations for how much work you can be expected to accomplish. People get into trouble when their output clearly shows they are not putting in a full day at home, if you have something preventing that, then the boss needs to know about it.

As far as your disability, if people know that the kind of medication you are taking makes it hard for you to drive, then they are less likely to be upset that you get a benefit that they do not. If you don't want to disclose anything about your disability, you lose the chance to to get people on your side and they will in fact probably be angry that you have a priviledge that they do not. This doesn't mean you need to disclose all the details of the problem, but rather have you boss announce that you will be working from home due to a medical issue and leave it at that.

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Thanks for your answer - I've been very forthcoming with my disability and the steps I'm taking to mitigate it. It does seem to be working. We also use a time tracking system that I've been very accurate with, breaking down tasks completed and time spent. –  Gallen Dec 12 '12 at 19:16

Reading between the lines your question really seems to have two different parts.

Does my disability justify me working from home?

Without questioning your condition and medical requirements, the bottom line here is that chronic pain has a bad reputation despite the fact that it can be a valid medical condition. The common public perception is that pain management doctors are nothing more than legalized pill pushers catering to weaklings and drug addicts.

Harsh I know, but you will have to deal with that perception. If an employer is suggesting or questioning your need to work from home they are more than likely basing their concern on that perception.

You will need to document everything with your manager and the HR department. Including a statement from your doctor(s) that you are sometimes required to take strong medication that prevents you from driving.

You also need to be responsible about this as well. If the arrangement is that you only work from home on days when you take your medication you need to make every effort to show up at the office when you don't. In other words don't abuse the situation.

How can I maximize productivity and teamwork when working from home?

Addressing the productivity and teamwork, as other answers have stated, is really a question of communication and perception.

If you're supposed to be working from 9 to 5 make sure you are. No letting the dog out, washing the dishes, or anything else that's not work related.

Stay in contact and in the loop. Answer IM's, email and phone calls in a timely manner. Remember your co-workers can't look around the corner and see that you're heads down in an issue or swamped with work. The natural reaction is to question where you're at and what you're doing.

Participate in meetings, conference calls, stand ups and so on. If a meeting is being held and your expected to be there you should know how you can connect. Phone, video conference, and so on. If the option isn't available you have every right to ask for it.

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That very perception is the reason I asked the question. Thanks for your answer. I am very lucky that my current employer is very understanding. –  Gallen Dec 12 '12 at 21:33
    
@Gallen then consider yourself luck and focus on staying connected to the office! Best of luck. –  Stephen Dec 12 '12 at 21:37

I'd likely think you have a responsibility to try to build the best relationship you can with your peers which may mean sending IMs, texts or other forms of communication to stay in touch with those that are in the office. I remember a couple of years ago I spent a couple of weeks working from home that had the challenge of overcoming not being physically in the office. There can be social messages of, "Hey, how is your morning going?" or there could be the more work-related messages of, "Hey, do you need help with anything?" as I'd think communication is the big thing to watch.

Communicating regularly and staying on top of things will likely be the most important stuff I'd think.


I'll agree there is the question of interpretation on text-based communications as KeithS points out. The flip side though can be the speculation that bosses have wondering, "What are you working on now?" along with the idea of working in a team rather than as a lone wolf. The idea here being to avoid isolation as that can often cause more of a rift I'd think and so while phone calls may work to some extent, one has to be careful of how do various people like forms of communication and how comfortable are people with various formats and how often to ask questions. If asked too infrequently, the bond can weaken and if asked too often, the bond can weaken because it can be annoying to have someone always sending messages.

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Careful though; text-based communication is among the most easily misunderstood. "Hey, do you need help with anything" can easily be misconstrued as "I don't have anything to do here at home"; almost certainly not the case, but taken by itself in an IM window it's hard for you to indicate otherwise. –  KeithS Dec 12 '12 at 18:55
    
Keith brings up a good point. There are times where I have nothing to to, both when I'm at the office and when I'm at home, and in those situations I feel the worst when I'm at home and have run out of tasks, as if I should stop recording my time, despite being logged in and available for work. –  Gallen Dec 12 '12 at 18:59

As others have mentioned, communication is key! Consider that technology today is awesome, and there are many amazing free products out there to make working from home almost like you're in the office.

This gives you the opportunity not only to prove that you can work effectively from home, but also, as a side benefit, it can make you out to be the valuable technology pioneer in the organization who introduces the team to some new ways of using this technology.

I'd suggest starting a Google Hangout and inviting your key coworkers to join it. While it might seem wierd at first to be on a persistent call, everyone will eventually get used to it. If someone has a question, or if you have a question, you can just ask without needing to initiate an IM or video call.

This also helps solve another problem that hasn't been addressed here: Remote workers can easily become disconnected from the mothership. It's much easier to have an us vs them mentality when dealing with people who don't work on-site, so by being in the hangout, you'll still be part of the group. You won't get to eat lunch at the taco restaurant with the group, but you will be a part of any in-office jokes or banter.

Other than this, the other answers hit the nail on the head in terms of what you should do as a strategy for ensuring that your work at home is both productive as well as giving the appearance that it's productive. Good luck! :)

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