Regular readers of my blog will know that I volunteer for a neurodivergent recruitment agency called Exceptional Individuals. While I started volunteering for them in January 2019, I worked for them on a part-time paid scheme for three days a week called ACE (Ace, Capable and Employed) from Groundwork London from June – November 2019. While it gave me the perfect opportunity to earn some extra money, there were some drawbacks that made me think really hard about what I wanted to do after the scheme was over.
Although I started meeting the person behind the scheme in March 2019, I decided to start it at the beginning of June owing to the Easter holidays and May bank holidays. To begin with, I liked the idea of working one extra day of week as well as having paid annual leave, especially during my trip to South Shields, but one month after I started the scheme, I began to have the occasional sick day off work. In September, I was off work for one whole week due to having a cold and I was told that I needed to provide a doctor’s note if I was off sick for seven consecutive working days (not including my general days off). I was supposed to be going to the theatre during the week while I had my cold and I tried to obtain a doctor’s note to see if I could get a refund on my ticket, but the request was unsuccessful because I hadn’t seen a doctor about my cold (I felt like I didn’t need to see one unless my cold didn’t improve after three weeks and I only had it just shy of two weeks) and I was told that it would take a long time for a doctor’s note request to be put through as well as cost me money. Because a doctor’s note from my local GP would take longer than the required time for one at my agency, this factor made me not want to work on a paid basis again. Other ways I could make more money are taking paid online surveys, selling unwanted items on eBay or opening an Etsy shop. I was also unfortunate enough to be ill with another cold during the last week of the paid scheme, but I put it down to a lack of hot water and heating in my flat due to an issue with my boiler or as a side effect of a flu jab I had at the end of October (the nurse who gave me my jab referred to it as a mini-cold).
Not only did I have the odd sick day off work, but my increased activity at my agency gave me significantly less time to edit and upload videos for my own YouTube channel, especially if I quite often felt too tired to edit them on my days off. I did publish quite a few blog posts during the scheme because they are usually quicker and easier to work on as opposed to YouTube videos. In the middle of October, I felt so overwhelmed about my workload from my agency that I had to take a day off work due to stress-induced nausea.
While working on the paid scheme gave me some flexibility such as swapping days if I needed to (for example, I had a flat inspection on a Thursday and I swapped my working day to the Friday that same week) and working from home on days other than Tuesday (such as when I was finishing off some whiteboard drawing sequences for a series of videos about autism – see above for the first video in the series), I also experienced some downsides including staff giving the animated explainer video project task (see above) to someone else to work on without my prior knowledge, which made me think the other person was better at creating animations than me, and making me feel as if I’d lost my integrity by asking me to write completely positive Facebook and Google reviews for the agency. Whenever I write an online review be it on Trustpilot or TripAdvisor, I include both positive and negative feedback to make my reviews as genuine as possible, so writing a completely positive review unless I have had an altogether positive experience does not make me feel as honest as I usually am. To top it all off, I felt that I couldn’t approach staff for assistance when they were in meetings because I didn’t want to interrupt them.
Overall, while I liked earning extra money and having the flexibility to swap working days as well as work from home (I can also swap days and work from home as a volunteer), I have definitely experienced more negatives than I expected during the scheme, especially with the doctor’s note policy, feeling overwhelmed with the workload at one point, a project I was originally working on being given to someone else, losing my integrity and being unable to approach staff when they were in meetings. The doctor’s note has been the factor that has made me want to go back to volunteering the most, but the good thing is that I receive a component of money for limited capability of work or work related activity, so I don’t have to look for any more paid work at the moment.
Exceptional Individuals: https://exceptionalindividuals.com
ACE/Groundwork London: https://www.groundwork.org.uk/projects/ace/
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.