Words by Smiley Team
Did you know that according to Public Health England, 1 in 3 people of working age in England have at least one health condition? And it's thought that by 2030, 40% will have at least one long term health condition.
Everyone has the fundamental right to either work as an employee – or even run their own business, if they want to – regardless of their health status. This is why an organisation called Excel Against the Odds was set up to help people with chronic illness navigate the workplace. It has a mentoring scheme, free Facebook community and membership to help.
Founder Sarah Berthon has a number of health conditions, including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, POTS Syndrome, ME, IBS and chronic migraines. “I found that running a business was not as compatible with having a chronic illness as I had thought," she tells Smiley News.
"All the advice that I was reading was telling me what I should be doing and the hours that I should be working and it had a negative effect on my health."
Sarah continues: “I started to work on developing techniques and strategies that I could put in place to help me run a successful business which worked well with my health. It also felt quite lonely running a business with a chronic illness, so I decided to set up a free community for other people in a similar position where I could share the advice that I had developed."
This community – Excel against the Odds – developed into a supportive space where the members feel safe to chat about the issues they were facing and everyone offered support.
Since then, Sarah has launched the Excel against the Odds podcast, sharing tips, advice and inspirational stories about running a business while looking after your health.
"I now offer one-to-one mentoring and a membership providing workshops on how to work in a way that works well with your health," she says.
As a result of the pandemic, Sarah hopes there will be greater awareness and more research carried out for certain chronic illnesses. In the meantime, employers should create a culture of trust and acceptance, where employee wellbeing is taken seriously.
“Many people keep their conditions a secret as they don't want it to be perceived as a weakness, yet if they felt that they would be supported, they are much more likely to ask for the help that they need, which would improve their wellbeing, their work and enable them to stay in employment”, she says.
“It's wonderful to see the positive effects that working with your health and energy levels can have on your working life”, she adds.
GET INVOLVED: You can find out more about Excel Against the Odds on their website.
DONATE: Donate to CISFA, a chronic illness charity providing support.