I gotta admit, things are going pretty good here. I feel very fortunate for this and in no way take this for granted at all.
Since receiving my diagnosis and the advice from the Occupational Therapist, I have had some weight behind my request for reasonable adjustments in the office. My team works in an open plan, long corridor-type office (almost like a call centre) with horrendous fluorescent lighting and our outside wall is south facing (hence receives the most direct sunlight) with vertical blinds which provide minimum reprieve, especially on very sunny days. To cope with the brightness and loud nature of the office (phone calls, general chatting, photocopiers being banged about when there’s a paper jam, laughter, etc.), I have had to wear sunglasses and noise-isolating earbuds with my iPod almost all the time every day I was in the office, only taking them off to speak to colleagues coming over to chat about whatever. I startle easily, and whenever I was interrupted to be asked if I wanted a cup of tea (which I never, ever take anyone up on because I prefer to do my own), especially if I was particularly engrossed in what I was doing, it would take me several minutes to calm down again to refocus. It drove me nuts.
Prior to getting assessed, let alone diagnosed, I had shared my situation with my line manager and said that I was hoping that a diagnosis would help me to get adjustments made in the office – at that point, she said to me that I didn’t need to have a diagnosis to have adjustments made; however, despite me asking, no adjustments were ever made, other than those that I’d make for myself (i.e. sunglasses and iPod). One day I forgot my iPod and had to work especially hard to keep myself from having a meltdown, so instead used my headphones with my computer to listen to music streaming online. And if I ever forgot my sunglasses, it was a guaranteed migraine the next day.
So, since receiving the OT’s advice for reasonable adjustments, I requested if my height-adjustable desk (for back pain experienced due to hunching on standard desks which are too short for someone of my height) could be relocated into one of the “touch-point” rooms. These small rooms which were likely meeting rooms at one point have small desks with a monitor, laptop dock, keyboard and mouse available for employees working around the county to pop in and get some work done between meetings/visits/etc. I explained that there would be three main benefits to my desk being relocated into one of these rooms:
- Reduce/eliminate the need to wear sunglasses
- as the overhead lighting is less bright and the room itself does not receive direct sunlight
- Reduce the need to wear headphones with music
- as the room is naturally quieter with fewer people able to occupy the space and the ability to shut the door
- I will feel less stressed and anxious in the office space thus bolstering my productivity
- as my sensory defensiveness will be greatly reduced
I realised that this is an exceptional request and one that would not normally be requested in line with our Flexible & Mobile Working scheme. However, if I did not have the physical requirement of a height-adjustable desk and personalised chair, I would be actively choosing to sit in the touch-point room as several of my colleagues do, especially on days that they wish to have less distraction for increased productivity. However, because I have a “partial” fixed desk (i.e. it becomes a hot desk for colleagues when I am working from home/on leave) and thus have belongings stored and the desk arranged how I wish to have it, it’s not practical for me to go sit in the touch-point as it is; I would be compromising my posture and exacerbating my ongoing back issues by sitting at an ill-suited desk station whilst trying to manage my sensory differences, and up until now, it’s been more practical for me to over-manage my sensory issues rather than compromise my back.
So, going through the bureaucratic rigmarole that I had to (it is a Local Authority after all), my request was granted and my desk was moved into the touch-point room yesterday. My colleague this morning said to me that she noticed that I appeared much calmer and happier already, even though it hadn’t been a full day yet, and that one of the new caseworkers in our team (who has only been here about three weeks) noticed the difference too. On the one hand, it makes me wonder how chronically wound-up I must have been beforehand (obviously I can’t see myself as other people see me), but I’m glad that sense was seen and I’m quite happy in this room now. I suppose I’m quite lucky that I work for the Special Educational Needs Team because, if anyone was going to understand my needs and request, it would be this team! I was prepared to go to the union if necessary, but I’m really glad that they saw sense and that this request was granted. Ultimately, what it boils down to is that I was asking to have access to a height-adjustable desk in one of the touch-point rooms – we already had the height-adjustable desk, so there was no need to buy one, so it just made sense to relocate this one. And this will still be available as a hot desk on days that I’m not in… whilst I’m not 100% keen on it, there is little that I can do about it and it was more or less an unspoken stipulation of the request being granted or not.
I’m on my own today, as it’s a Friday and there tend to be fewer people in the office anyway, so I’m treating myself by listening to my Manics playlist through Amazon Prime Music through my laptop speakers! I’m such a rebel. 🙂 I already feel like I’ve gotten a lot of work done today because I’m not having to cope with managing the sensory overload on top of everything else. The only thing that would make this perfect is a weighted blanket on my lap… otherwise, I’m a very happy bunny right now. Hope you all have a lovely weekend. 🙂