The world of work is changing and being a pioneer in new ways of working going forward will be a great advantage to many businesses. Introducing flexible working patterns, home-working and other adjustments for your employees will not just benefit those who have a long-term health condition but also working parents, the older members in your company, and potentially the work-life balance for everyone.

Knowing that the environment that they are working in is supportive of their needs both now and in the future, will assist with job retention and satisfaction. This has a direct impact on productivity and engagement in the workforce. By employing people with chronic conditions, you are not only opening up the possibility of employment for them but also illustrating to your current employees the type of company you are running and giving them reassurance if they were to become unwell.

Ageing Population

In the UK our workforce is ageing, with a third of all workers aged 50 plus. Our life expectancy is slowly increasing year on year, so unless people are able to stay in work longer then we will start to face workplace shortages and witness a negative impact on the economy from the amount of people who are economically inactive. Our workplaces need to be able to adapt to this shift as at present there is a 71.1% employment rate in 50-64 year olds with a drop to 10.4% by 65 years and over. This is not from a lack of older people no longer wanting to work but from having to retire due to a range of factors, with health being the prime reason for people aged 50-64 to no longer be working.

As physical health declines with age, over 44% of 50-64-year-olds have a long-term health condition, so being able to retain these employees for as long as possible in a sustainable way is of upmost importance. Our older workers have a lifetime of experience and skills, a strong work ethic, social maturity, resilience from working through technological changes and different ways of working. These need to be embraced and valued by companies, becoming a more ‘age-friendly’ business is in many ways synonymous with being more long-term illness friendly too!

Invisible Talent Pool

At Astriid we use the term ‘invisible talent pool’ to describe the people out there who have fantastic education and skills behind them, who want to be part of the workforce but who struggle to meet society’s expectations of what work looks like because they have a chronic illness. In England alone, 15 million people are living with one or more long-term health conditions and this is increasing every year. One in three of the working age population have at least one long-term condition – that equates to a lot of skilled professionals who have expertise and experience but may need some flexibility and an inclusive workplace to be able to contribute their talent.

Companies across the UK are missing out on individuals who have an abundance of desirable attributes due to living with a chronic condition. People with long-term health conditions face frequent barriers and challenges that they must overcome, meaning they tend to be innovative, determined, persistent problem solvers who don’t give up until they find a solution. Managing ill health alongside everyday life makes them resourceful, adaptable, and better able to cope with ambiguity. As a society we tend to overlook these advantageous qualities and just focus on the perceived problems associated with working when living with health conditions, perhaps it is time to change our narrative?

(Article written by Hannah Emery)