Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 4 months ago

Inclusion for Employees with Chronic Illness & Disability


In America, 157 million adults have at least one chronic illness. Hannah Rose Olson, Founder and CEO at Chronically Capable, makes one thing clear: A person who lives with chronic illness or disability is not just capable but they bring important skills to the table, like resilience and empathy. People with these challenges represent a massive pool of untapped talent for the workplace, which has already started adapting to the most requested accommodation: remote work.

In this inaugural episode of Technically People, we interview Olson about strategies employers can adopt to attract and retain this capable and often untapped talent pool.

In the interview, we discuss:

- What it takes to build inclusive workplaces both in-office and virtually

- Intersectionality for people of different communities with chronic illness

- People’s fear of telling managers about an illness

- Job descriptions that signal you’re inclusive for this population

- 3 strategies for allyship

Find every episode of Technically People on Apple, Spotify and more, or our website, and join us on LinkedIn.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Technically People in your favorite podcast player.

Welcome to technically people acommunity conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you bythe tech recruitment platform built in the podcast features, insights fromleaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard, building human centeredworkplaces of the future along the way you'll hear concepts thatwill stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself.What's the most future forward way to approach my people leadership, we allknow the future of work isn't waiting around. So, let's get on with the show,welcome to technically people. This is a podcast for leaders who are reallypassionate any type of leader people leader even up to the ceo who's,passionate about building a better workplace of the future, a human centerto work place in the future, so we'll be providing insights on some of themost pressing issues that work place. Leaders face today di and belongingwellness recruiting in this so called new normal and a lot more femoro astiffany myers and my fellow host sheridan or his built in c mo, is herewith me as well. Chardon hi, it's nice to see you it's good to see you tiffany,i'm really excited about this conversation. I totally agree, i haveto say i'm really excited to be exploring an issue today on thisepisode. That is really important to me near and dear to my heart, so i'llintroduce panna olsen. She is a founder and ceo of chronically capable, whichis an employment advocacy platform for professionals with chronic or invisibleillnesses and disabilities. The platform gives members with thesechallenges, access to opportunities across disciplines of various companies,so hannah. Thank you so much for joining and leading us through thisimportant conversation so glad to be here. Thank you so much for having meand i'm a huge fan of bilton so excited for today's conversation, love it. The fan ship goes both ways.I'm a huge fan of your work. I wonder it's really hard to separatechronically capable of from your personal story. Hannah you just can'thave one without the other. So can you share a bit about your story?Absolutely so i was diagnosed with line disease in college very, very bad caseand after graduating. I unfortunately had reached the point in my treatmentwhere i was instructed to have a pick line in my arm, which, for those of youwho are unfamiliar, it's a permanent iv. I was sued up to ivy antibiotics forabout eight hours a day and at the time i was a recent graduate from bostonuniversity excited to enter the workforce, and i had this pick line andi accepted a job down in washington dc and i didn't know how to disclose this.I didn't know when i was supposed to who i was supposed to tell, and so ichose to say silent out of the fear that this boss wouldn't accept thispiece of me that i was dealing with and as i got down to dc, i kept it prettyquiet and hidden for as long as i could. Until, unfortunately, i had a boss thatwasn't okay with me having this pick line, and so i saw first hand you knowhow hard it was to live with an invisible disability in the workplace.If i had a long sleeve shirt on no one knew what i was dealing with, but assoon as my i was wearing a short sleeve, you could suddenly see this. Thisvisible disability- and i struggled with- is there a place for people likeme and a there place for people with illness and disabilities in theworkplace and for a while. I thought that here there wasn't, and i thought iwas the only one going through this. As i learned the depth of chronic illnessand disability in the united states, it was just so alarmed the disparitiesamong these communities and how hard it was to find and connect with anemployer who care is and who can support these individuals, and so ibecame determined from that point on to really up front and to create aplatform that would actually help...

...people like me, and so three years ini'm so grateful to be working on this product and to be building somethingfor people out there. Shugging. Like me, i just want to mention something when ithink about that long slave shirt that you were wearing, i think about secretsand keeping secrets and what a burden that really is, and, in fact keepingsecrets actually can affect your health and manifest in your body and new ways.So the challenge is even related to negative health effects. But i want toask you your three years in tell me how employers are actually doing in termsof supporting people with disabilities or chronic illness. So i'd say that twothousand and twenty was really a year of of learning and in learning for alot of companies, and i think leading up to that. There was already thisgeneral understanding that we needed we needed to do more. However, twothousand and twenty a d and being faced with the global pandemic. We saw firsthand the need to include those and then suddenly, the topics of illness andremote work and flexibility were all endeavors inclusion, we're all comingto a head all at the same time, and i think this really tipped the balancetowards inclusively and employers saw the need to actually include thispopulation. So i think, thinking about the past three years. We weredefinitely on an upward trend. I'd say that there's a lot of work to be doneand so much work to still be be done in this space. There is a law for thisparticular population of disabilities in the united states. It's under theata, which is now about to have its thirty first anniversary this july, anunder that ther, section five o three, which requires companies to not onlyrecruit but to promote and retain individuals with disabilities and theirwork forth at a level of seven per cent. But right now only thirteen percent ofcompanies in the united states have actually reached the department oflabor's target. So there is obviously a lot of work to be done. I think irecall or read that section five o three is not a mandate necessarily buta recommendation that correct it is not amandine, and so that's where itbecomes a bithur key. Hopefully one day it will be, but there are some. Youknow idiosyncrasy there that if you are to be audited, you have to be able toprove that you are reaching towards that goal. So it is an aspirationalgoal, but it's one that companies do take very seriously and they are it ison their agenda. Then, just even in the last few years it's become more andmore prior you're talking about the progress that we've made over the lastthree years, and it still is the case. At least. I believe that when peopleare thinking about inclusively, it seems as though chronic illness is thelast thing that comes to mind. I would say, ageism is probably one thing thatrivals that, in terms of the work that companies do with regard to inclusively,do you agree with me on that? Definitely you put the last thingfollowed by predicables and then critic illnesses. I think people don'tunderstand the depth, but i think it's hard for companies to put intoperspective how many people this is actually affected and when they startto learn those statistics. I think it becomes more of a priority, but thatcomes from education and awareness. People aren't talking about this enough,and you know i felt like i was one of the first people a os like a pioneer inthis face, because people will never disclose this publicly and i took ahuge risk in my life to do so. But i hope that that starts the trend and youknow, as i continue to share my story, that that encourages others to speakout, because we don't know that the actual problem people aren't going toreact to it. Tell me some of those stats absolutely when we talk aboutgranic illness, we're talking about most us adults, sixty percent- and thisis a statistic that people sometimes don't believe me when i share this.Sixty percent of our population lives with at least one chronic illness.Forty percent lives with two or more, and this is cdc statistics as if itwould acquaint to a hundred fifty seven...

...million americans and of those peoplewith chronic illnesses. Seventy percent of illnesses are invisible, which meansthat your employer wouldn't know if you weren't, to disclose only three point:two percent of people disclose in the workplace. That's a huge cap, somethingthat i like to refer to as a disclosure gap. That's something i want everyoneto walk away with and understand that. But, as you look at people, you may notknow what they're dealing with so i was reviewing some stats according to thebureau of labor statistics, so i was doing some light light summer readingthere and unemployment in two thousand and twenty four people withdisabilities with twelve point six percent. Compare that to seven point:nine percent of people without a disability. I know that your point ofview hanna is that hiring recruiting retaining promoting people indisabilities or chronic illness is an opportunity and not a chore. Tell usmore. So i think that the chronicle is an disability. Community really doesrepresent this massive untapped wolf talent that does bring core financial,cultural and economic benefits to two organizations, and so there was a greatstudy done in two thousand and eighteen by excentral disability in the talkedabout disability inclusion champions. So these were companies that wereprioritizing disability inclusion for implementing this in their work forcesand across the board they saw higher revenue, higher net income, highereconomic profit margins, and they also is that ninety percent higherpretension rates and a seventy two percent increase and employeeproductivity, and we see as well the employers who are actually hiring fromthese populations. They're, building work, places that are accessible andwhen we build work, places that are accessible for those of disabilitieswere actually making them better work places for everyone in in anorganization and then, lastly, there are federal incentives to hiring fromthis population does something known as the work opportunity. Tax credit alsoreferred to as watsy, and this awards companiess up to ninety six hundred perperson per polied candidate per year and tax credits, and so that'ssomething important for companies to understand as well, something i thinkabout quite a bit with regard to chronic illness and that's theinvisibility component. You know there are so many symptoms of chronic illnessthat can't be objectively measured, so think about pain right, it's totallyself reported. You can't tell the level of pain that a person is in just by looking at them, there's no test for it, but then i think you know you could saysomething similar about depression. Similarly, you can't measure theseverity of someone's depression just by looking at someone. It is about selfreporting, and i just want to make totally clear that i believe that thereis huge stigma around mental health, but i do feel like we've made at leasta little bit of a dent, probably because ovid has caused so manywellness in mental health issues among employees that employers have startedto focus on stepping up and creating safer spaces. To talk about mentalhealth. I don't think we're talking about chronic illness in the same way.So tell me what needs to happen for companies to catch up. It startinternally, and there needs to be this domino effect of a people sharing andstarting from leadership. I think we see women talking about being inleadership positions and talking about this sharing their stories, ithoutbeing female leaders, but we never ever ever see someone with chronic illnessor disability, saying i'm an on leadership position and i to sufferfrom a romic, illness or disability, but actually should stop saying theword suffer. We need to create a culture where people feel comfortable,and that starts in the leadership level and from companies actively standing upand saying that we are a company that supports and accepts those living withillnesses and disabilities. We don't see many statements about this and, ofcourse, as an individual, if you are in...

...that seat, which i was in, there's somuch fear and stigma involved in that, and if, if no one's doing it before you,why the risk is too high, and so why would you do that? If, if leadership isit even saying that they also are living with this, so i think it startso more than, and i think there's a lot of work to be done here. Yeah,something that you said just now makes me think it would be really helpful forpeople leaders to know when they start discussing the realities of thesechallenges. You said i shouldn't be using. The word suffer so tell ourlisteners. Why i'm not suffering i'm going through things. I've been dealingfor now, six years with an illness that has taken so much for me, but i'mcapable- and i think that that's important to note that, even thoughpeople may be suffering in a moment that we can't group this population asa group that is incapable, because then we're furthering the issue orfurthering the idea that these people don't belong in the work place andcannot perform in the workplace. I'm a perfect example of someone who i'vedealt with my fair share of health trial and i have suffered at points inmy life, but i'm also able to do xyz. I also bring tons of strength to the wordplace that those who haven't dealt with these challenges may not bring, and soi think it's important to use language and and be very cognizant of thelanguage that we use when we refer to to this population, in particular justto expand on your thought about what you bring to the table. We also talkedabout the entire population of people with these challenges, bringing in softer skills like empathy andresilience and time management. So i would say we want to make sure thatthat's not lost. Let's talk more about health related stigma, because you know.We know, of course, that that causes negative outcomes with regard topsychology and in terms of social outcomes, but it's a crazy and ironicvicious cycle because it leads to negative health outcomes. In otherwords, health related stigma makes sick people sicker. We can put that in thecontext of inclusive health, related stigma, intersects and interacts withother forms of bias and discrimination, an oppression based on things like race,gender, sexual orientation and that's naming just a few of the points ofintersection, biporcatus other marginalized groupsand looking at people who live below the poverty line, for instance, theyexperience something that's referred to as double stigma or multiple stigmas.So do you have a sense of how a double or multiple health related stigma mayaffect how people are treated at work? And what can employers do about it?Absolutely. Just today i was researching a bit more about countiesof color living with comic conditions and disabilities. Racial and ethnicminorities are one point, five to two times more likely in white people tohave o the majority of major chronic illnesses. One and four black adult inthe us have a disability were as one and five white adult type of difficulty,so we need to always think about not only the the intersectionality but alsothe racial disparities in the health care industry and of those effectivewith honest isabelita. You know i'm someone who lives with these. As youmentioned, these double stigmas or multiple sigmas and a woman. I livewith an illness and disability and identify as lesbian, and on top of that,i'm young and that's a lot of things i'm dealing with as i'm trying to workwith organizations, and so it's important for companies to talk aboutthe intersectionality s amongst these groups. Again. This is something thatreally comes down to what the organization is doing and how they'reputting in that work. Are you educating yourselves? Are you educating youremployees and are you creating a culture where people can feelcomfortable to talk about coming? I think a lot of that comes down toeducation storytelling and how are we communicating with our employees? Sothank you so much hannah for bringing...

...these issues to light. I think we havethe right time to move into part to where share it and talk about some ofthe implications and applications in a business sense. Thanks so much, iactually learned quite a bit and took several notes, while you both weretalking especially being a leader and about that, it's my responsibility todisclose things that may be people in the organization could or outside theorganization could identify with sometimes his leaders. We do a poor jobof supporting even disabilities or disadvantages that we can see, and ireally feel enlightened about thinking about the invisible like what does goodleadership look like to someone who may be struggling with these illnesses?What would you want from the ideal leader yeah? A big pieces is just beingopen to talking about this. I think that that's something that leadersoften find a strange conversation to have in the workplace or something thatmay be uncomfortable for people, but those uncomfortable conversationsreally do ignite a sense of inclusion, as i mentioned before, there's littleto know, leadership actually even thing that i'm someone who identifies therewas a great organization that came out this past year called the valuable fivehundred. We saw five hundred companies across the globe, leading organizationscome out and say that we're a company committed to disability inclusion andwe are going to put this on our business agenda moving forward. Even inthis amazing initiative. Still there weren't many of lenin leadership,actually saying that i'm also someone to identify, and so from leadershipperspective. It's important that we're investing into this community so thatthey feel heard and feel seem, which is something that these people are oftenfeeling alone. That's so important, and i'm going to rise to your challengeright now, hannah as a chief marketing officer and a female in technology. Imean i've kind of hidden a lot of things, but i have struggled with ibsreally my whole life, and you know you sit in these executive meetings and youneed to really go to the bathroom and it feels embarrassing, like you, can'tstand and hang with everyone else, and so there were times that i had actuallypre medicated, because i knew i needed to sit in that meeting for a long timeand i think it would have been better. I've always just closed on anindividual level, and i really should have taken the time to say: look, i'mstruggling with this and just really kind of owned. The response to that. Sothank you very much, and so i have just closed and i actually will keep doingthat. Thank you for kind of freeing me to do that. So i really appreciate itand i feel, like i learned as a leader from your conversation with tiffany, iloved what you were saying about things that we do for those with disabilities.Make it better for all of us, and the first thing that comes to mind is theramps you know for wheelchairs. I mean when i had a son in a stroller. I couldnot have been more thankful, but what does a workplace look like when you'retrying to accommodate some of these invisible diseases? What can we dobetter? I'd love to start with remote work because we saw in two thousand andtwenty the benefits of remote work and how, in particular, how much thedisability and crime illness community benefited from from working from homepeople build accessibility into their homes, and so, when you are then throwninto a work place, often times the workplace isn't built with them in mindand so be able to work. Remotely perso allows people to have the accessibilityofferings of their home environment, but also remote work allows people tohave that flexibility. We have a lot of folks who have ibs in our communitycrones disease, these types of disorders being able to use thebathroom being able to have the flexibility that isn't often there in aworkplace when everyone's staring. We also add in the commute time and theaccessibility of commutes, so remote... is, is number one. I think it'sthe number one accommodation request we see from our community, but in terms ofto your question, you can build an accessible work place by having rampsscreen reader software interpreters, these sense of things, but it's goingbeyond that for this community and how do we build inclusive policies,educational programming and benefits that support this community? I love toalways talk about the benefits piece because beer on tap and a gymmembership isn't always the most inclusive benefit to offer someoneliving with an chronic illness. They may want yoga membership or you know ahealth sypein and then, when we think about policies, flexible work and leaveschedules having combined health, sick days and vacation days. These are thetypes of things that really benefit the community and then overall it's youknow. Are we talking about accommodations in our job descriptionson our careers, page people in our community? I think it's like ninetythree percent or something i have to pull the the exact statistic want tosee combinations listed up front on a job posting. It is very rare that i'vefor exist. That's such a good point because, usually the restrictions likeyou must be able to lift fifty pounds and the face on us on the candidate toexplain why they cannot versus you could be successful in this roleregardless so really big take away, and i also like what you said about thedifferent benefits and you know we use leaders often think that these aregreat benefits for everyone, but sometimes they may create other stress.We do mile challenges and a lot of those things that seem to be good, butwe forget, we may be leaving someone out really really good advice when youthink about the ideal way that somebody as a leader could kind of position ajob description. What does that look like? How do we write that jobdescription? In your mind, you gave a perfect example, one that i actuallygive myself a lot about the lifting fifty pounds. I don't know if you heardyou laugh, but that's often in a job description. It's a very unnecessarycorgan. I think job descriptions in general have a lot of unnecessaryjargon so being conscious to scan for biases, and these descriptions, andthen to include here, are the accommodations that we offer at thisorganization. You can have the general ones, then certain rules may have tellcommune options and being sure to list those up front, because ta times out often, a person is going to walk away from a job description when they thinkwhen they see the five lift fifty pounds. I'm going to say why i wouldhave to lift fifty pounds in a marketing job and, like you said, whywould i have to explain that to the hiring managers it makes people feelmore comfortable and more opt to apply for your roles in pranically get? Willwe list the accommodations up front on each profile, and so that way peopleare are getting matched with the right job based on their need? That is soimportant. One of the biggest benefits that i think i've learned in twothousand and twenty is about ally ship, and i had always wanted to be supportedof my team and my peers. How does someone make a good ally without justclosing unwonted information about somebody's health condition? How do westrike that balance and how do we make sure that we're empowering our teams tocontinue to support one another allyship has been an ongoingconversation this year and something that we were still learning. I thinkthere's three key things. I want to point out versus language matters beingconscious in educating yourself about what language we use when it'snecessary to mention a disability. It should emphasize the person for thedisability. Second, second, is that good allies, they're good listeners andthey're good observers, which i think is really important, and they actuallytruly want to know an individual and how an individual is affected by acertain situation, and so a lot of people want to be allies. What they mayact before they think and before they...

...get to know the entire situation, andso some people are really just too quick to volunteer to help and it'simportant to be supportive but be patient with providing that support,and so you shouldn't assume that i can't do it until it's shown that ican't and lastly, it's important to get to know the person for them and not fortheir disability. You know some people want to talk about it too early and toooften, and they think that the person is defined by their disability and theywant to talk about how that disability impacts. The person there's a time in aplace for those types of conversations, but really it's important to get toknow the person first, like i'm hannah i like to be outside, i like to hangout with my friends. I like to do xc and i have lime disease, but it'simportant to know me for seven individual, then going straight to thisdisability. Well, i'm gonna steal a little bit from what you just said,because we're getting ready to move into our two minute takeaway, which islike what would you want our listeners to remember from this conversation, i'mgoing to go on and start with mine, because what you just said is reallyreally impactful is that we really need to see the whole person first and thenthis is just a part and make sure that we are accepting all parts of someoneand making sure that they can thrive. Is that a good way to say it or do youhave a better way to say you know, get to know the person and then make surethat you accept and accommodate everything you possibly can? I thinkthat's perfect and you know treat your co workers the sameway. You treat the other coworkers and make a conscious effort to be informedabout making assumptions and at the the same time you know you should have aneye out for some of the injustices that society is placing on people'sdisabilities. They have amazing traits that they bring to your workplace, theybring to your culture and to get to know them first and their disability.Second, any other take ways you'd like us to make sure that our h and seniorleaders can make sure we take advantage of this great tylon and make sure thatthey're successful at our organizations three or four teques reminder about thestats. I think it's so important to remember this and things we should allknow and remember. Six out of ten adults in us live with a chronic healthcondition, one o out of four adults living with a disability and becauseseventy percent are invisible more likely than not. You wouldn't know thatyour employees are one of these people or you may be one of these people soimportant to really understand the depth. I think second, big takeaway isthat the chronical is and disability community does represent a massiveuntapped pool of talent and they bring financial and cultural benefits. Thecompanies of all sizes and disability inclusion is an opportunity. It's not achore. Third, i'd like to say that you know this: disconnect about disclosure,only three point: two percent of people disclosing this is a huge gap from thesixty percent of people that identify as having a chronic illness and thetwenty five percent with the disability. So we really need to create a culturewhere disclosure is encouraged and it's celebrated not something where you haveto have fear. And lastly, you know i just want to reira that disabilityinclusion at its core, it's about embracing difference and it's more thanjust hiring people with disabilities and involves creating a workplace wheredisabled and cronica yell people are their valued for their strength andthat they have the same opportunities to succeed, to grow professionally, tobe compensated fairly and to have the opportunity to advance in their careers.So again, just leaving it off that this is about embracing difference andcelebrating, and that's something that i think we all need to walk away.Remember tihany! I know this is a topic near and dear to your heart. Anythingelse that you'd like to add is your takeaway yeah. I would i'd like to jumpon at the disclosure train and say that i also live with chronic and invisible illness and i'mlucky enough to work at a company that has been above and beyond supportivefor sure so hannah, i'm glad to have...

...been a part of closing the disclosuregap by point. Zero. Zero servers, one percent to you for sharing and forhaving me here today. Well, it's our pleasure. So i'm sure you piqued theinterest in a lot of our listeners. How should they reach out to you and findout more about your organization? You can first off join us on our website.It's www capable that work if you're looking for a job or looking for acommunity, we've got a great community of folks out there like you. If youwant to reject me, find me on linkedin, my name is hannah rose olson and againmy company's name is chronically capable and thank you so much forhaving me. I really love everything that built in is doing and excited tobe a part of your podcast. Well, we're glad to have you and it's reallyimpressive, what you've already accomplished in your young tenure andexpecting to see even more amazing things from you and let us know how wecan support you as you do those things well. Thank you so much everyone foryour listening and for your time, if you'd like to learn more about ourpodcast visit technically people where you'll find our latest episodes andblog post, you can also subscribe on your favorite podcast player and, ifyou're focused on building a human center work place you're going to wantus in your feed. Thank you so much and have a good day built in is a techrecruitment platform. That's in constant dialogue with leaders aboutthe future of tech, bilton's podcast. Technically, people expands thoseconversations now fellow futurist create and lead exceptional workplaces;environments that inspire in demand tech professionals to join your companyand thrive to learn how building can help your company attract besting classprofessionals, visit employers, top bilton you've been listening to technicallypeople a community conversation about the future of work. If you want to hearmore cutting edge ideas about creating human center work, places subscribe onyour favorite, podcast player and you'll never miss an episode and if you're over the moon about whatyou've heard we'd be honored. If you took the time to give us a five starreview so signing off until we meet again in the future.

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