By Mark Vogel, Education Specialist at Unify
When people think of remote working, working from home, flexible working, “anywhere working,” (call it whatever you please) the stereotypical picture that pops into everyone’s head is a middle aged person with bedhead in his/her pajamas and slippers on a conference call, on mute, dealing with screaming kids, dogs barking, door bells ringing, and the television blaring in the background.
While these typical scenarios are undoubtedly alive and well, please allow me to tell you my story on how being an “anywhere worker” helped me overcome severe herniated discs (L4,L5,) and back surgery without causing me to take a sick day, waste a vacation day, or go on disability over the course of 13 months.
My name is Mark Vogel and I am a 25 year-old- marketing manager from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ever since I was a kid (and still today) I’ve enjoyed living an active lifestyle whether it is playing ice hockey, snowboarding, mountain biking, or weight lifting. I’ve also had my fair share of injuries over the years consisting of broken bones, torn ligaments, and concussions, but I never had any back problems.
In February 2016 I was (ironically) traveling from Philadelphia to London UK for a week long business trip. I had flown on a Friday night so I could meet up with a friend to attend the Arsenal vs Hull City football (soccer) match, do some London site seeing, and adjust to the time zone to rid myself of any jetlag and be ready to participate in a tradeshow on Monday.
Well somewhere in between sleeping awkwardly on the 8 hour flight from Philadelphia to Heathrow, lugging a heavy backpack around the airport terminals, cheering for Arsenal at the Emirates, riding the London Eye, visiting Buckingham Palace, and eating fish and chips, I managed to mysteriously suffer a back injury. I woke up Sunday morning in debilitating pain to the point where I couldn’t stand up straight and my body looked like a human question mark. I was completely crooked and in rough shape, but I still managed to make it through the tradeshow and my meetings.
When I arrived back in the United States I immediately saw my doctor who diagnosed me with a pinched nerve and prescribed both muscle relaxers and physical therapy to ease my pain. However, the pain persisted and actually became even more unbearable. Long story short, I went back to the doctor with results from an MRI that came back positive for L4- L5 herniated discs.
Quick anatomy lesson:
Discs are the cushions between a person’s vertebrae that allow the spine to flex and bend. They can also act as shock absorbers. When one of these discs is damaged, it can press on a person’s nerves which may cause pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the neck, back, arms, and legs.
In my case I had a severe lumbar lateral shift, lower back pain, and radicular pain radiating down the back of my left leg from my glute to my calf. On top of those complications, I physically could not sit for more than 10-20 minutes or stand for more than 30 minutes on a good day. The only moderate form of relief I would get would be lying flat on my back. But regardless of what position I was in I couldn’t get rid of the throbbing and burning leg pain and tightness. I was referred to an orthopedic spine specialist and a neurologist to get me on the right track to recovery. With me being in my mid 20’s the doctors and I wanted to try everything we could to avoid going down the surgical path. My regimen consisted of physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture 3-4 times a week in addition to disc decompression, epidural injections, and muscle relaxers/pain medication. The combination of treatments only offered temporary relief. After month 11 my symptoms starting getting worse to the point where the doctors and I mutually agreed that it was time to get the surgery.
All of that aside, me being an “anywhere worker” allowed me to cope with my injury in ways that simply would not have been possible in a traditional 9am-5pm office based job. I would like to highlight 4 key examples below.
- For starters and as I stated above, I could not sit for more than 10- 20 minutes so I would not be able to endure the morning and evening rush hour commute to and from the office.
- Being an “anywhere worker” meant I was able to easily transfer positions throughout the work day while still being able to answer emails, join conference calls, share my screen to collaborate with colleagues, and complete my work. All while being able to have the freedom to take a break and lay down when needed, again very difficult to do in a more formal office setting.
- Although I couldn’t get on a plane and travel, I was still able to change out of my sweats and put on a shirt and tie to join and host video conferences with customers.
- Above all being an “anywhere worker” allowed me the flexibility to schedule my doctor’s visits and physical therapy sessions around my work schedule without asking my manager to grant me permission to leave the office for an hour or two.
When you do the Math, my regimen required me to spend a little over a month away from work. In an office based environment this amount of time off would be unacceptable and would have required me to burn sick and vacation days and possibly even mandated me to go on disability.
However, when a company provides its workforce with the proper communication tools, being remote or out of the physical office doesn’t mean that the employee is away from his/her work. Even as I was driving to my doctor’s appointment, standing outside the waiting room, or sometimes even while on the disc decompression table I was able to stay fully engaged on conference calls and respond to time sensitive information via text from my mobile device. Or I could simply set my presence to “unavailable back in an hour” and respond to my colleagues when I returned. And since my office and my home are the same place, I am easily able to start my day earlier or work later whenever necessary.
As I write this blog I am recovering from surgery. And although I am disappointed that the ultimate resolution required surgery, I am very thankful and fortunate that my employer Unify is a huge advocate of remote and “anywhere working.” My colleagues and I are fully armed with the proper unified communications tools to work in any kind of environment and handle anything life throws our way.
Not only did my employer support me, but I supported them too. There was no financial impact to them in having to bring in a temporary staff member, and my colleagues didn’t have to bear the burden of my workload as I was still able to manage this all myself. In fact, about 90% of my colleagues didn’t even know I was managing a back injury in addition to my work unless I personally informed them. Using our communication and collaboration technology meant that it was business as usual (with some added pain).
So yes while the remote working visuals of working in a coffee shop, on a beach, or in your pajamas come with the territory, remote working also allows all employees including those who are suffering from an injury or illness to remain as productive if not even more productive than working in a traditional office environment-so long as they are backed with the proper communication tools to succeed.
That is my story and I would love to hear yours!
How has being an “anywhere worker” had a positive impact on your life?
Have you ever had to use a vacation day to go to a doctor’s appointment?
If your employer doesn’t support remote working or flexible work hours let’s have a discussion as to why not.
Thank you for reading.
P.S. I did just so happen to write this blog in my pajamas
#Remoteworking #Anywhereworker #Newwaytowork #Flexworking
Mark Vogel started as an intern with Siemens Enterprise Communications/Unify in 2013 while he was studying marketing and finance at West Chester University. Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he has since become Unify’s Global Education Marketing Manager and has emerged as a subject matter expert in the education vertical. He is responsible for the creation and execution of Unify’s education marketing collateral and campaigns that stems from analyzing industry trends and building rapport with university decision makers, students, and key influencers. Mark is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and digital native who enjoys staying active, spending time with friends and family, traveling, and supporting the Philadelphia Flyers. Follow him on Twitter @MarkRVogel