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A day in the life - work and sciatica

GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,184Community champion Pioneering

Today we start a new theme about work, from finding work to the experiences in work.  George tells us about a day in his life working with the pain of sciatica.

I left school with no qualifications, and worked in warehousing up until 2003 when I had to pack in due to Sciatica which I still suffer from. My introduction to housing was through my local TMO where I have served as Secretary and Chair for about 6 years. During this period, I was involved in developing policies, improving the organisation’s communication, and steadily improving its image and satisfaction rates. I joined my current employer as a trainee for two years, before getting a full-time job with them as a Section 20 assistant and last year after restructuring became a Service Charge and Section 20 Assistant.

My day starts early, 6 am when I wake up feeling stiff and in pain. I spend between an hour and two hours stretching and trying to loosen up. A shower and getting ready to go to work.

My morning is spent checking the team email and allocating them to team members, responding to inquiries from the sale team as well as my own emails. I also deal with any mail coming to the team. I will also answer calls to the team phone line.


There are ten people in the team and the regional manager. Six of us have disabilities or long-term medical conditions. Different members have different hours, from the standard hours, two of us start later and finish later. Most of the team are on compressed hours, working longer hours for four days and having an extra day off. We are also fortunate enough to have flexible working, so the option of working from home or another office is not uncommon. So the team calendar and individual calendars are key to keep track of where people are.

When these tasks have been completed I like to take my lunch break, usually between 12 and 1 pm.

My afternoons tend to vary from day to day depending on the time of year and what is going on in the rest of the team. My first task is to check my to-do list and calendar and deal with anything outstanding. Afterward, I am either helping one of the officers or working on one of the ongoing projects. Assisting officers can be anything from setting up mail merges, filling envelopes to acknowledging we have received leaseholders’ letters or emails, scanning, and putting documents onto the computer.

Otherwise I am helping to gather information and preparing spreadsheets for the service charge actuals or estimates. While I have a good general knowledge I often lack the confidence in myself, and so this route allows me to gain more in-depth knowledge and confidence in myself. Over the last year, I am answering more complicated questions rather than just passing the caller onto one of the officers.

The hardest part of the job is reading and understanding leases, not always the best-written documents often with conflicting information and, as a legal document, often written in a legal language that can be complicated or have a specific meaning, not in common use.

My day ends when I get home and lie down. It often feels like I have a golf ball underneath me and can feel the muscles relaxing. I often hear a click which is usually uncomfortable, but on the odd occasion can be painful.

Between my voluntary and paid work, I love working in housing. I am living the life I want and hopefully at the beginning of my career.

If you’re disabled or have a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job, you can:

  • talk to your employer about changes they must make in your workplace
  • apply for Access to Work if you need extra help

Your employer must make certain changes (known as ‘reasonable adjustments’) to make sure you’re not substantially disadvantaged when doing your job. These could include changing your working hours or providing equipment to help you do your job.

You should talk to your employer about reasonable adjustments before you apply for Access to Work.

If the help you need at work isn’t covered by your employer making reasonable adjustments, you may be able to get help from Access to Work.

You need to have a paid job, or be about to start or return to one.

You’ll be offered support based on your needs, which may include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace.

An Access to Work grant can pay for:

  • special equipment, adaptations or support worker services to help you do things like answer the phone or go to meetings
  • help getting to and from work

You might not get a grant if you already get certain benefits. The money doesn’t have to be paid back and won’t affect your other benefits.

You can find out more about work and disability here.


Tell us about your experiences at work, what are the challenges you have faced? What are the positive experiences? Are there coping strategies you use to get through your work day?

As an individual I stood alone.
As a member of a group I did things.
As part of a community I helped to create change!

Replies

  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Administrator Scope community team
    Thanks so much for sharing @Geoark

    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • Barrylad1957Barrylad1957 Posts: 100Member Courageous
    hiya @Geoark,
    I first got sciatica (after bending down to pick up a small, ornamental garden gnome!) in 1988, and although, like you, I've learned to 'get around it', it still bothers me intermittently. With regards to my work - I was a nightwatchman for over thirty years - it didnt interfere with my job, as I spent the majority of my shift standing up and walking. What it did cause me bother with, were things like driving to and from work, getting in and out of the car, dressing for work, even, sometimes, interfering with my ability to use a toilet. I had some physio, but they were too short on patience and I never got to spend enough time with them anyway, often missing whole shifts to attend therapy just to be told that I had to 'just get on with it'. Eventually, I met an old hippy who moved into my street, and he said, "I can help you with that". Despite my doubts, he taught me two exercises he had learned "at yoga classes", and they actually worked for me. If I wake up now with 'The Dreaded Twinge', I either Cat-Stretch, or the other one (which entails placing your palms into the small of your back and slowly leaning backward, but I never found out what it was called). The advent of Naproxen also helped a great deal. I should imagine that, by comparison, an easy solitary job like mine was easier to bluff the way through the hard days than it would be in yours, where you are on view all day and required to be interactive, so, good for you. If you keep up your daily stretch routine (which I didnt) and keep your body weight down (which i also didnt) apparently, it gets easier as you get older. Its often disregarded by many as a 'little' disability, but it can be agony, (the spasms are particularly unpleasant) and it can unexpectedly throw a huge spanner into your work and leisure plans; I used to get paranoid, as I mainly used to get attacks on Christmas Eve, or the day before I was due to go away on holiday. 
  • htlcyhtlcy Posts: 132Member Pioneering
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I have kyphosis as well as other conditions and know how much of an impact working can have on you. I think lots of people forget that they are entitled to reasonable adjustments and struggle on. I'm in the process of going through a work assessment at my new job. I'm hoping it'll help :-)
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,184Community champion Pioneering
    Hi @Barrylad1957,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I struggled on for a while when I first got the sciatica and it was a downward journey for me. At the time I had only worked in warehousing. The point where I chose to stop working was when it took me over an hour to walk my daughter to school, where it used to take 20 minutes, and then had to move a piece of equipment weighing a metric tonne on my own, as I worked on my own at nights. Amazing how you find different strategies to cope, but eventually you have to be honest with yourself.

    The transition was a long one for me, nearly 10 years. No support to retrain, no experience of working in an office. Practically no one wanting to give me a chance. Hence my voluntary work was my route to learning new skills to eventually get the break I needed.

    The current situation is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes more people can observe me, and this is actually good. As mentioned half the team have different disabilities and my boss is very good at noticing when I am in a lot pain. If she thinks I am over doing it she will either speak to me quietly, tell me to take a break or put me on something else. She is also very good when I ask for a couple of days off at short notice. She is also good if I call her and tell her I'm having a bad day and can I work from home. My sickness level has dropped significantly since joining her team July 2016.

    We are currently waiting to see if her request for me to be promoted is approved by HR, or if it will have to go internal and  interview, so with the right team and manager being more visible does not have to be a negative.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,184Community champion Pioneering
    Hi @htlcy yes getting the right adjustments can make a huge difference. One of the biggest for me is the later starting time. This gives me time in the morning to do my stretches, shower get ready and leave. It also means the travelling is a lot easier as most people are at work. 

    Good luck in  your new job :smiley:

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

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