Finding a flexible job to help you manage ill health
If you suffer from ill health, or are managing a long-term health condition, you may need to think carefully about what kind or amount of work you can take on. And flexible working could be an important part of the solution. Here’s our advice on how to find a job that suits your circumstances.
Four things to think about before you start job hunting
- Think about how much work you can manage
The most important thing you need to consider is your potential workload. Is it realistic for you to work full time, even with an element of flexible working? Or would you be better looking for a part-time role? Of course, you can always renegotiate your arrangement further down the line, but it’s worth being realistic about what you can manage.
- Consider what else you might have to fit in
Will you need to attend medical appointments, physio sessions or any other kind of regular (or irregular) commitment to support your ill health? If so, the flexibility to work your hours around these, or work from home for some of the time, would be helpful.
- Work out when you’re at your best
Are there times of the day that you are more effective? For example, do you have more energy in the morning, but flag later on? Or do you get a boost from having a rest in the middle of the day? These are all factors which will help you work out your ideal arrangement.
- Think through the impact of commuting
Is distance an issue? Would you need to be able to drive to work, or would you be able to manage on public transport? And would you need to try and avoid rush hour? If so, you may need to set a limit on your commuting distance, or explore varying your start and finish times. The ability to work from home is obviously another good way to avoid a tiring commute.
Of course, you may not be able to get every single thing you want from a flexible working negotiation. So it’s also worth spending a bit of time working out which of these factors are critical, and which merely nice to have.
Four things to do to kick start your search
Having considered what flexibility you’ll need to manage your ill health, you’re well-placed to start looking. These tips should help make your search more successful.
- Don’t rule out applying for a full-time job
There are still far fewer flexible jobs than there are people who want them. The most recent Timewise Flexible Jobs Index found that only 11% of jobs paying more than £20,000 OTE are advertised as being open to flexibility. However, we have also found that 9 in 10 managers would be open to discussing flexible working with potential employees – they just don’t say so up front.
So if you see a full-time job that suits your skills and experience it might be worth applying, then negotiating the flexibility you need later.
- Get networking, on and offline
Networking is a brilliant way to find out about potential opportunities, especially those which aren’t advertised formally. Online, LinkedIn is the perfect platform for this – so if you’re not already on it, you’ll need to be. Upload a picture, write a sharp summary, and ask former colleagues or clients to endorse you. Then get posting and sharing interesting content, and comment on other people’s, to keep you front of mind.
And don’t forget the value of informal networking. Talk about the fact that you’re jobhunting with everyone you meet. You never know who they might know, or what opportunities they might know about, and you certainly won’t if you don’t bring it up.
- Research flexible-friendly recruiters and employers
As some recruiters and employers are less willing than others to accommodate candidates’ flexible working needs, it’s worth prioritising those that do. On Timewise Jobs, for example, we only advertise part-time and flexible roles. So any organisations you come across on our jobs board will be flexible-friendly.
Similarly, some employers are very open about their flexible approach, so it’s worth checking out company websites to see their flex credentials. You might also want to see whether they have anything to say about supporting employees with ill health.
- Consider speculative applications
If your research identifies a company that you would really like to work for, it may be worth putting in a speculative application. Even if they don’t have a specific job advertised, it will show them that you are proactive, and may put you at the top of their list if a suitable role becomes available.
One final thing to remember
- Skills first, health and flex later
Even the most supportive, flexible employer out there isn’t interested in your need to work flexibly. They want to know why you’re the best person for the job, what skills you will bring and what attitudes you display, so make sure you do that first, and raise the flexible question later.
Once you do raise it, it’s up to you whether you choose to mention your health condition as the reason. It’s a personal decision, but it may make sense to be open about it before you have an offer – at a second or final interview, for example – to help ensure you get any support you may need later on.
It’s worth considering that, if it’s a long-term condition, it may be defined as a disability under the Equality Act, which would oblige you to disclose it early in the application process. If this is the case for you, make sure you can articulate clearly how you manage your condition, and how the flexibility you’re asking for can help with that, so that the potential employer can understand how it might (or might not) impact on the role.
But however serious or otherwise your condition is, it’s always worth remembering to sell yourself first and foremost, so your potential employer is in no doubt about why they should hire you.