What Patchwork Hub Means to Me

What Patchwork Hub Means to Me

Jennifer Moulds shares her personal story of living with a chronic health condition and how Patchwork Hub has support her journey to finding work.

The past few years have been particularly difficult, but Patchwork Hub has filled me with hope.

In November 2016, I was in my second year at university and in bed with a nasty sore throat and high temperature. If someone had told me that it would take me several years to recover from this virus, I would not have believed them. After a couple of weeks of feeling exhausted and strange, my friends persuaded me to see a GP. I was told that my dizziness, queasiness, and panic attacks were symptoms of post-viral postural tachycardia syndrome (where the autonomic nervous system stops working properly) and that I would be well again by Christmas. Instead, my health dramatically deteriorated. This climaxed in February 2017 when I was forced to suspend my studies and go home to be nursed by my mum. Nearly four years on, I am still recovering.

I have come a long way since that point in February. From being bedridden and needing constant care, I am now living semi-independently at university studying German. Family and friends help with laundry and shopping and I am fortunate enough to have a cleaner who visits the student accommodation daily – all of which allows me the time and strength to continue my studies. My timetable is reduced and my exams are spread out to make finishing my degree an achievable goal. While I am far from living the active life of my peers, I am so happy to be at a point when I can do the things I want to do again!

There have been many factors which have contributed to me reaching this level of health, including medication, physiotherapy, and changes to my diet. I have also been taught tools to manage panic and anxiety, which include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and meditative practices.

This wonderful stock of resources is allowing me to return to the life I want, but it has not yet given me the level of health which a conventional job would require. Many of my friends are now entering the world of employment and are expected to meet a set timetable of tasks and working hours, often involving a fluctuating workload which can be very intense at times. This is not sustainable for me.

Fatigue means work takes me longer than it used to and I work at 20-minute intervals to manage this. I lie down or recline in between to relieve the heart palpitations and fatigue-headaches which the stress and effort trigger. Even if these physical needs could be met at a future place of work, I am easily overwhelmed and drained by constant background noise and interaction with people. My symptoms are also worse early morning and in the evening, which, as a student, rules out most social events, but as an employee would worryingly diminish my working-day. How could I possibly manage the office jobs or paid internships of my friends? And what employer would pay me for a ‘day’ which would have to be so much shorter than 9-5 and for tasks that would take me longer to do than other people? And if I had a bad day, or a bad week, what then? A tutor might let me miss the occasional essay for health reasons, but this surely would not be tolerated in a work setting.

Only one year to go until I graduate and these thoughts and doubts whirl in my mind. I was realising with a sort of hopeless sadness that, unless my health improves significantly over the next few months, it is not realistic for me to pursue any of the postgraduate jobs or studies that my peers are doing. With this in mind, I started looking through my university’s summer internship programme, hoping that this would help me gauge what I might physically manage and, importantly, what I might enjoy.

Because of Covid-19, many of the internships were now remote, so at least some of the obstacles (travelling and office environments) had been removed. It quickly became clear, though, that the workload for most of these positions would still be too high for me to reliably or realistically meet what was expected of the intern. Then I found Patchwork Hub.

I had never heard of ‘flexible working’ before but I immediately recognised it as exactly what I have at university and exactly what I would need in any future employment. I was amazed to find that the exact problems I was facing had been recognised and were articulated in the company description. A “one-stop shop for somebody whose personal circumstances prevent them working a conventional 9 to 5 office job”. This was me! This was exactly what I need! I could not believe that a company existed to improve the very situation I found myself in.

I have been working as an intern with Patchwork Hub for about a month now. Researching articles and resources has opened my eyes to the world of flexible working, which is much more wide-reaching than I had first thought. Parents, the retired, carers, anyone looking for a better work-life balance need the conventional way of work to be reformed and need the services I am helping to create.

To be part of something so worthwhile and so needed has hugely improved my self-confidence, which had otherwise been knocked by chronic illness. And it is encouraging to learn that I am not the only one looking for an alternative form of employment! The more research I do for the company, the more I see that there are opportunities out there for anyone looking for greater flexibility. For example, I now know that freelance work might be a possibility for me after I graduate, something which I was nervous about before because of the unpredictability of my health. But with a company like, I could translate and transcribe audio files, thereby using my German degree, while letting them do all the promotion and job-searching, allowing me to simply choose from their list of what is on offer.

This new knowledge of alternative employment possibilities and online resources means that I am finally looking forward to the future again. Patchwork Hub has taught me so much about how I might proceed after I graduate, but more importantly it has shown me that I am not alone in my need for greater flexibility. It is this element of community and support which has meant more to me than the job prospects. I now have role models of people working with illness and an assurance that this is possible. I am so grateful to Patchwork Hub for facilitating widespread change to the workplace, and, importantly, uniting those who need this change. It has made me feel excited both for my future and for the future of work as a whole!

Thank you, Patchwork Hub, for giving me hope again.

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