How Garden Offices can Close the Skills Gap.

I am of the opinion that British and Irish workforces are missing out.  We have an excluded army of bright, well-educated, sophisticated people who find it almost impossible to attain the position relevant to their capability.  It’s a bit of a disgrace and at times, when I meet with these friends, I see for myself just how awkwardly society treats them.  I’m talking about so-called ‘special’ people, those labelled with a disability which somehow devalues them in employer’s eyes and creates an air of liability around them.

Smarter and Flexible Working practises can help employers, employees and potential employees by reducing wasted effort on travel, reducing stress by the introduction of new flexible home-working routines and helping improve the skills gap by re-engaging those excluded groups.

Here’s an example of that forgotten skill set.  Christine was born with spina bifida so has a severe physical disadvantage which is expected to shorten her life.  She also has regular epileptic fits, falls and infections.  She completed a degree in business management but finally accepted that after 47 job applications and 1 interview that she was virtually unemployable.  With undaunted determination and drive she now runs her own property management and letting agency, from home.  When I say home, she had a garden office installed to accommodate easy access, just a ramp and wide door with low handle and accessible switches for lights and power.  When I visit her she is usually buried in her laptop and can’t stop her phone ringing!  A successful, happy woman.

A successful woman in every sense only because she took the incentive to set herself up in business from home.  Not everyone’s that brave or capable in that way.  Mr Anderson taught my class A’ level biology until he fell ill with chronic fatigue syndrome.  After 4 years he was still not well enough to return to work and he was obliged to resign.  He would be capable, in his own words, of part-time lecturing but finds his applications fail.  As an experiment, he applied for a local position as a senior science tutor and did not return the medical form.  He was invited for interview but was declined when he revealed his history.

Our school-registration style of working is outdated, impractical and impossible for some.  There can be a level of trust between employer and employee based on quality of work and productivity, instead of presence and timekeeping.  Small businesses and large corporates all report that flexible home-working policies increase loyalty, productivity and efficiency.  That’s where my sales pitch could come in for garden offices.

It’s a fact that people with a chronic disease or congenital illness enjoy a better quality of life if they can work, even part-time.  Work satisfaction boosts self-esteem and can relieve/distract from stressors.  It’s a feeling of being valued, needed and respected.  This vast excluded group may appear different from our traditional workforce but represent a sure way to close our skills gaps with flexibility foremost.  I say this with personal first-hand experience of having a chronic illness and many employers’ negative attitudes.

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