How can I be my most authentic self, my best self and what obstacles stand in my way? As lead of the Chronic Health and Disability Group for Inclusion and Diversity, my community members and I can probably write an essay on this but in 400-600 words, the challenge is on!
I’ve worked for SSE for 15 years and over the last year to 18 months, the phrase Inclusion and Diversity has become more apparent within our business, which I think could be due to enhanced awareness. From personal experience, it can be hard to speak up sometimes, but fast forward to 2021 and this is exactly what is being asked of us.
How can I be my best self? By letting me speak, hearing my voice and if you really want to put your money where your mouth is, do something about what I say. That last point is a loaded statement, but apparently, someone wants to hear my voice, so unless this is a tick box exercise, it follows that change is on the horizon.
What is SSE doing right? The creation of belonging groups was the first step, but a step to what people ask, what’s the point, what’s in it for me? Until now, it was just a place where like-minded people could come together, share experiences in a non-judgmental space. But now, it’s a place for our voices to be heard. The belonging communities will soon have a presence on our corporate website, and they have an online presence on vercida.com, these are both steps in the right direction and necessary to promote what an inclusive and diverse organisation SSE is.
SSE did right by us all in March 2020, they stood by ‘safety first, if it’s not safe we don’t do it’ that was the ‘ah-ha’ moment for me, where I was incredibly proud to work for SSE. We could have been furloughed, but no, that wasn’t going to be an option, we were going to survive and even go one step further and thrive. Rising from the ashes of a global pandemic recently came Flexible First. Although Covid is a situation we never wanted, from a work perspective it created a new opportunity to work from home for a large percentage of employees. For me, with my health condition, it has enabled me to be my best self, I’ve been happier working from home, mentally and physically healthier and I can manage my health condition better. All of these points benefit SSE in the long term. I can safely say I never want to go back to 5 days a week in the office although I’ll be more than happy to go in to collaborate. This is a defining moment for me and I’m hopeful that this will dramatically change my working life for the better.
How far do we have to go? For me I’d like to see dedicated policies cascaded down from corporate SSE, we have been rebranded to have one shopfront, so let’s mirror this through our policies. Some companies have menopause policies, policies on worshipping and religious festivals, personally I’d like a policy for people with chronic health conditions and disabilities – this policy would cover things like hospital appointments, reasonable adjustments and sickness absence in detail.
I would like SSE to join the Sunflower Scheme to support employees and make us more attractive to recruits. If I were a prospective employee and had to choose between a company with a health condition/disability policy and one without, I know what I’d pick.
I’d also like to see dedicated blogs off of our I & D page, where colleagues can contribute by writing an ‘in a day in the life of’, then managers can tap into this information to get a real idea of what it is like. Or have specific people throughout the business that managers can call if they want to find out more about a certain condition/disability, maybe we could also have panels for Qs and As.
Lastly, I’d like to see some kind of pastoral team to spearhead the way for I & D, they would manage welfare issues, taking that pressure away from team managers. Pastoral managers could be mental health trained and spend time listening to colleagues to really understand certain health conditions and make suggestions to have a positive impact to enable us to be our best selves. There may be specific training courses that pastoral managers could access on chronic health conditions/disabilities to give them the skills to speak to us and ask the right questions, they can also read up on invisible illnesses, spoonies or download the ‘in my shoes’ app and live my life for 24hrs.
The worst part of having a chronic illness surprisingly isn’t the debilitating symptoms or the horrible side effects from the drugs, it’s the judgement from those who do not understand, or care enough to research and try to better understand what we go through. I don’t want your sympathy, just empathy.
Why is it crucial for me to be my best self? The chances are that if I’m happy, healthy and valued I’ll be a worthwhile employee, I’ll work smarter, be more productive and bring my ideas to the table thus overall adding value to the company, it’s a win-win. Personally, since SSE removed my obstacle (the office) and I have been working from home, my confidence has grown, I even applied for and was offered a training secondment, it’s a job that I love and brings out the best in me, and I’m certain that the value I bring will be carried back through to the business. Currently, despite my health condition, I am thriving, I work for a company I am proud of, this is my voice and it’s being heard. Maybe next year there will be a follow-up post and some of our ideas will be implemented.
SSE is powering change and it can’t be done without us.
Change Readiness Agent and Chronic Health and Disability Group Lead
Read more about our Belonging In SSE Groups