The Employment Plan: You Are Not Alone

November 27, 2014

This is an excerpt from author Joan Friedlander’s book Business From Bed.

Illness, typically considered a sign of weakness, is a taboo subject in the business environment. Business owners keep their conditions hidden so that their customers keeps their attention where it should be anyway, on the value and quality of the business service or products. Employees throughout the ranks keep their health issues hidden, fearing loss of employment. Yet, illness is a part of life, not just for a select few, but for millions of people around the world. Business from Bed is, among other things, a book meant to normalize an aspect of life that many determined professional men and women endure in isolation and silence.

You Are Not Alone

Nearly 1 in 2 Americans are living with some kind of chronic illness2 (133 million in 2004),and 60%3 (approximately 80 million) of those are between the career-building years of 18 and 60. In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. had more than 20.7 million “non-employer businesses,”4 otherwise known as self-employed business owners. It stands to reason that a significant portion of entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs will have to deal with the challenge of facing a health crisis and managing their business at some point in their life. If you’re like most people, you probably rarely talk about your problems, and may end up feeling isolated—like you’re the only one dealing with this issue. However, these statistics indicate that on any given day, there are many more people like you, who are also working from “under the covers” in the comfort of home or bed, because it’s the only way they can earn any kind a living while attending to their health.

Nedi’s Story

After spending almost six years close to home and in bed with severe pain associated with persistent endometriosis, Nedi, a talented musician and a single mom of two teenage boys, finally regained enough strength to get out of bed and back into life. Unbeknownst to me at the time, her first step at getting back in the game was attendance at the first workshop I ever led. She was thrilled to have enough strength to get out of the house and think about her career again. However, she feared that she’d have to settle for another life-killing job instead of pursuing her passion as a songwriter and musician. Fortunately, the message of the workshop was more geared towards pursuing your dreams by focusing on your unique gifts, than returning to an unfulfilling career.

Encouraged, Nedi tapped into her musical talents and started getting back to work by teaching piano to the children in her neighborhood. Slowly but surely, she regained her healthand began to take on more students. She went from feeling helpless and dependent to becoming self-sufficient and capable. Not only that, she reclaimed her first passion and is, as of this writing, doing “live” concerts via Facebook from her home studio, something that would not have been possible when she and I first met. Technology advances have made the most unlikely dream possible for people who must remain vigilant about safeguarding their health.

Nedi’s experience reflects that of countless creative, entrepreneurial men and women who must stay close to home, often in bed, for an extended period of time as a result of a painful, energy-draining illness. She told me that if she could change one thing about her experience it would have been to tell the truth about her situation much earlier, and to have asked for help. It is Nedi and people like her that inspired me to write Business from Bed.

Technology Increases Opportunity

When I Rosalind Joffe and I wrote Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease5 in 2007, technology offered many alternatives to traditional employment, but the flexibility we had then was not as prolific as it is today. In just five years, the advancements in “tele-technology” have increased significantly. Business owners, and many employees, can more easily work from anywhere in the world under a variety of circumstances. Why shouldn’t working from bed be one of those circumstances? Timothy Ferris, author of the wildly popular The 4 Hour Workweek, opened up doors for office employees to enjoy a flexible lifestyle, too. It is time we bring the same opportunity to the countless men and women who, at some time in their lives, need the same level of flexibility in order to manage their health.

What This Book Addresses

Business from Bed is a crossover book. Other books on similar topics focus on either the restoration of health and well-being after a health crisis or specific illness, or on matters pertaining to business success. Business from Bed addresses both. It shows you how to answer the questions that those who have walked the same path struggled to answer for themselves.

  • How can you put your business/career back together in new ways that are more satisfying and sustainable?
  • What are your options for earning a living if you have to stay close to home or in bed?
  • If your health crisis has prompted you to change your business approach, how do you figure out what to do?
  • How do you deal with sudden vulnerability when you’re used to being independent and capable?
  • What do you tell people about your illness, when do you tell them and who do you tell?
  • How can you plan and set goals when you’re not sure how you will feel the next day?
  • How can you rebuild and maintain your business – or reignite your career – while also remaining mindful of your health and well-being?
  • How do you deal with the emotional impact of having expectations of yourself that you cannot fulfill?

In addition to the experiences shared by Lifework clients, business owners and employees, Business from Bed includes practical guidance. Most of this guidance is delivered in question form, giving you greater access to your own intelligence and wisdom. As you will learn, if you haven’t already, your health setback has the potential to steer you towards decisions and actions that you’d not previously entertained. Some people become more practical and strategic; others become more innovative and bold. Most people do a little of both. Regardless, if you have been making decisions according to someone else’s standards of success, I say it’s time to live by your own.


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