Long-term Telecommuting Could Benefit the Rare Disease Community

Athena Merritt avatar

by Athena Merritt |

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An employer once asked me what was the one wish I wanted granted. Having battled sarcoidosis for years while in the workforce, the answer came easy. I asked for the option to telecommute. At the time, my wish didn’t come true. 

June 11 is National Work From Home Day in the U.S. Nearly half of Americans already are working remotely as a result of the pandemic, the Brookings Institute reported in April. According to CNET, many companies now plan to allow remote work permanently or long-term, which is a trend I hope continues. 

Managing sarcoidosis at work is often difficult. It includes dodging sick co-workers while immunosuppressed, grappling with symptoms others can’t see such as pain, fatigue, and brain fog, and dealing with the side effects of multiple medications — all while juggling medical appointments around work. 

Prior to the pandemic, most employers viewed working from home as a perk, not a necessary accommodation for those with disabilities. Courts overwhelmingly agreed. Employers who denied such accommodations won 70% of cases over a two-year period, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Law last year. That could change in the future if the current wave of telecommuting shows in-person attendance isn’t an essential function of work, Bloomberg Law reported.

Increased telecommuting opportunities would be good news for those battling health issues who are struggling not only to hold onto jobs, but also to find them. In 2018, just 37.5% of the U.S. population with disabilities was employed, compared with 77.8% of people without disabilities, according to the 2019 Annual Report on People with Disabilities in America, compiled by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.

Working from home is just as appealing to me now as it was in the past. It reduces my exposure to sick people. I’m able to focus better without workplace distractions. I save on gas, meals, and clothing. Not having a commute also allows me to grab an extra hour of sleep if I’ve had a rough night of insomnia.

The country’s rush to reopen businesses without adequate COVID-19 testing or a vaccine is already leading to a spike in infections in some states. For vulnerable populations, telecommuting may end up being the safest option for employment for a while. With more employers offering it, the variety of jobs and geographical area for employment would expand.

Employers have viewed telecommuting as a perk for far too long. Hopefully the pandemic will change more of their minds in the future.


Brighter side: We all could use a break from bad news right now. So, I’ll be closing my columns with a roundup of positivity until we are able to say goodbye to masks, hug our loved ones, and leave our homes without fear.

Drive-in revival: If you miss drive-in movie theaters or never got to experience one, now is your chance. They’ve been popping up in cities across the U.S. since the pandemic hit, ABC News reported. Plans are even underway to convert the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium into an outdoor theater for up to 230 cars. 

Teen spirit: Two Maryland teens set out to help their grandparents with grocery shopping during the pandemic, but recognized a need and are now helping seniors nationwide. Dhruv Pai, 16, and Matt Casertano, 15, have created “Teens Helping Seniors,” a grocery delivery service that connects volunteers to seniors in need, according to The Washington Post.


Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


Sleeves avatar


Thank you for such an informative column that I'm reminded of from time to time and so happy to find again and see that it's still going *strong*.

Athena Merritt avatar

Athena Merritt

Awww, thank you! I hope that you are healthy and staying safe!

sleeves avatar


No, thank you!

I'm doing the best I can, all things considered.


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