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 havebeen particularly difficult, but Patchwork Hub has filled me with hope.



InNovember 2016, I was in my second year at university and in bed with a nastysore throat and high temperature. If someone had told me that it would take meseveral years to recover from this virus, I would not have believed them. Aftera couple of weeks of feeling exhausted and strange, my friends persuaded me tosee a GP. I was told that my dizziness, queasiness, and panic attacks weresymptoms of post-viral postural tachycardia syndrome (where the autonomicnervous system stops working properly) and that I would be well again byChristmas. Instead, my health dramatically deteriorated. This climaxed inFebruary 2017 when I was forced to suspend my studies and go home to be nursedby my mum. Nearly four years on, I am still recovering.

I havecome a long way since that point in February. From being bedridden and needingconstant care, I am now living semi-independently at university studyingGerman. Family and friends help with laundry and shopping and I am fortunateenough to have a cleaner who visits the student accommodation daily – all ofwhich allows me the time and strength to continue my studies. My timetable isreduced and my exams are spread out to make finishing my degree an achievablegoal. While I am far from living the active life of my peers, I am so happy tobe at a point when I can do the things I want to do again!

There have been manyfactors which have contributed to me reaching this level of health, includingmedication, physiotherapy, and changes to my diet. I have also been taughttools to manage panic and anxiety, which include cognitive behavioural therapy(CBT) and meditative practices.



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

Fatiguemeans work takes me longer than it used to and I work at 20-minute intervals tomanage this. I lie down or recline in between to relieve the heart palpitationsand fatigue-headaches which the stress and effort trigger. Even if thesephysical needs could be met at a future place of work, I am easily overwhelmedand drained by constant background noise and interaction with people. Mysymptoms 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 myworking-day. How could I possibly manage the office jobs or paid internships ofmy friends? And what employer would pay me for a ‘day’ which would have to beso much shorter than 9-5 and for tasks that would take me longer to do thanother people? And if I had a bad day, or a bad week, what then? A tutor mightlet me miss the occasional essay for health reasons, but this surely would notbe tolerated in a work setting.

Onlyone 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 improvessignificantly over the next few months, it is not realistic for me to pursueany of the postgraduate jobs or studies that my peers are doing. With this inmind, 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 internshipswere now remote, so at least some of the obstacles (travelling and officeenvironments) had been removed. It quickly became clear, though, that theworkload for most of these positions would still be too high for me to reliablyor realistically meet what was expected of the intern. Then I found PatchworkHub.

I hadnever heard of ‘flexible working’ before but I immediately recognised it asexactly what I have at university and exactly what I would need in any futureemployment. I was amazed to find that the exact problems I was facing had beenrecognised and were articulated in the company description. A “one-stop shop for somebody whose personalcircumstances prevent them working a conventional 9 to 5 office job”. This wasme! This was exactly what I need! I could not believe that a company existed toimprove the very situation I found myself in.

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

To bepart 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 tolearn 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 areopportunities out there for anyone looking for greater flexibility. Forexample, I now know that freelance work might be a possibility for me after Igraduate, something which I was nervous about before because of theunpredictability of my health. But with a company like Rev.com, I couldtranslate and transcribe audio files, thereby using my German degree, whileletting them do all the promotion and job-searching, allowing me to simplychoose from their list of what is on offer.

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

Thankyou, Patchwork Hub, for giving me hope again.




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