Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a medical condition characterized by long-term fatigue. This and other persistent symptoms limit a person's ability to carry out ordinary daily activities. Many people with CFS/ME find it difficult to maintain paid employment, as their capabilities can vary from day to day. But inclusive employers can do a great deal to support colleagues with CFS/ME. If your organisation goes the extra mile for diversity and inclusion, consider working with us more closely. Find out more at VERCIDA.
The big three symptoms
ME/CFS have three big symptoms. Post-exertional malaise is tiredness after physical activity - even what might seem minor to non-disabled people, like a gentle walk can leave someone with ME/CFS exhausted for days or even weeks. This can often be accompanied by pain - pins and needles in the extremities, stomach pain, migraine, and cramps. Sufferers also can face cognitive difficulties - trouble with finding words, remembering details or making decisions. This is often called brain fog. Importantly, CFS/ME sufferers are not malingering, being lazy, or demonstrating poor performance when they manifest these symptoms! Colleagues with these conditions and can often thrive with appropriate accommodations.
Flexible scheduling, part time and job share
Flexitime in all its various forms is the biggest help for CFS/ME sufferers. Part time work and job shares can boost confidence - a colleague knows that a surprise flare-up won't mean important tasks are undone. As with all flexible scheduling, it is very helpful to have a reliable system of communications. A group chat or blog makes sure work can be coordinated efficiently.
Invisible disabilities and stigma
It's essential to ensure that these accommodations are open as much as possible to all employees. That's because there is huge social stigma around invisible disabilities like CFS/ME. Flexible scheduling benefitting all employees can ensure that colleagues with invisible disabilities can make use of them without feeling singled out. Pacing workloads also benefits everyone. Crunch periods and forced overtime can annoy non-disabled employees, but can make a role inaccessible for someone with CFS/ME.
Disability at work is incredibly sensitive. Well-meaning non-disabled employees can wind up marginalising their disabled colleagues further by making adjustments without consultation. This is doubly true for invisible disabilities where there is little social awareness. Good practice means supporting networks lead by disabled colleagues and taking their advice when setting policy. It's also important to educate all employees about invisible disabilities and your company's inclusion practices. If you're ready to recruit employees who care as much about inclusion as you do, register with VERCIDA today.