The employment landscape changed dramatically in 2020—perhaps for good. While the unemployment rate may recover in the long-term, how we work may be permanently altered. Telecommuting and social distancing could become part of the new normal. Already, large employers like Facebook and Twitter have announced that they will allow some or all of their employees to work at home indefinitely.
An increase in work-from-home jobs is particularly good news for the immunocompromised—those who have weakened immune systems. According to the CDC, people with diseases such as cancer, HIV, or genetic immune deficiencies should be especially careful not to expose themselves to COVID-19 because they are at higher risk of serious illness. Working from home is one way to significantly lower that risk.
But even if you don’t want to work from home, there are jobs out there that will enable you to earn a living while still safeguarding your health. Being immunocompromised doesn’t mean you can’t have career choices. Here’s how to find the best jobs, tips for getting hired, and details on what protections you’re afforded under the law.
5 Careers Suited to Work-from-Home
Remote work was on the rise well before the impact of the coronavirus convinced large employers to let employees telecommute. Regular telecommuting grew 173% between 2005 and 2018, and in the latter year, 3.6% of the American workforce worked remotely at least half the time, according to an analysis from Global Workplace Analytics.
Further, the diversity of occupations that lend themselves to remote work may surprise you. It’s not all customer service jobs and on-demand gigs. FlexJobs, a niche job search site that offers remote and flexible job listings for a monthly fee, regularly features remote job titles as diverse as registered nurse, UX/UI designer, and teacher.
Looking for a remote job? Try visiting specialized sites geared toward remote workers or search your favorite job search engines and boards for keywords like “remote,” “work-at-home,” and “telecommuting.”
Here are a few remote jobs you might find, plus information about typical salary and benefits like health insurance—an important consideration for immunocompromised people.
1. Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants are administrative assistants who work remotely, helping businesses and individuals schedule appointments, manage email, make travel arrangements, etc. They may also perform services like bookkeeping or online research. Many virtual assistants are independent contractors, which means that they generally do not get health insurance and other benefits through an employer. However, because it’s often freelance, virtual assistant work can be extremely flexible—a valuable asset for a worker who is immunocompromised.
2. Nurse Case Manager
When you think of registered nurse jobs, you probably think of nurses in scrubs, putting in long days at a hospital or doctor’s office. But there are RN jobs for nurses who need (or want) to work from home. Remote nurse case managers work for healthcare providers and insurance companies, coordinating care, managing care plans, and recommending treatment options.
Salary and Benefits: According to ZipRecruiter, remote case managers earn an average salary of around $70,000 per year. Per PayScale, 81% of nurse case managers have employer-sponsored health insurance.
3. Web Developer
Best of all, you may not need a lot of additional education to get started. Typically, web developers need an associate’s degree to get hired, but the right skills might get your foot in the door. Web developer jobs are compatible with remote work and freelance positions that offer flexibility.
Salary and Benefits: Per PayScale, web developers earn an average salary of about $60,000 per year; 73% have health benefits through work.
4. Computer Support Specialist
Also known as tech support specialists or help desk technicians, computer support specialists help users solve problems with their computers, software, internet connections, and so on. Although some computer support specialists work in offices, others work from home, helping users over the phone or via video or chat. Some of these jobs are open to professionals with only postsecondary classes or an associate’s degree, according to the BLS.
Salary and Benefits: Per PayScale, this job pays an average rate of $18.45 per hour; 73% of computer support specialists have health insurance through work.
5. Social Media Manager
Social media managers are an essential part of a 21st century marketing team. Every major brand and organization has a social media presence, and social media managers develop and execute the strategy behind the feeds. Because social media managers work mostly online, they can often work from home.
5 Careers Suited to Social Distancing
Remote work is one solution for immunocompromised workers—but it’s far from the only option. If you don’t want to work from home—or have a skill set that’s incompatible with telecommuting —there are jobs that will allow you to protect your health while earning a living.
The following jobs have one thing in common: they allow workers to maintain physical distance from others.
Some occupations, like forester and delivery driver, involve spending a lot of time in the field and away from coworkers. Others, like tax preparer and software developer, can be adapted to social distancing requirements and often offer more flexibility than the typical 9-to-5 job.
1. Delivery Driver
If you love driving and have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record, you might enjoy a career as a delivery driver. Per the BLS, it’s often possible to start this job with a high school diploma and a month or less of on-the-job training. Although you may have to interact with customers on your route, contactless delivery has gained popularity during the ongoing public health crisis.
Immunocompromised folks need to avoid exposure to illness, which makes it challenging to navigate most workplaces in the era of the open plan office. But foresters work in the great outdoors, managing land quality in parks, forests, and ranches—far from the germs of the typical office. Typically, these workers have a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field, according to the BLS.
3. Tax Preparer
One of the biggest perks of being a tax preparer is that the work is often seasonal, ramping up in the weeks approaching the tax deadline (typically April 15 in the U.S.). That can come in handy for immunocompromised workers, who may need flexibility in their schedules. Sometimes, this job can be done from home. To become a tax preparer, you may need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or simply a high school diploma, plus training and experience. Some states require certification.
Salary and Benefits: According to PayScale, tax preparers earn an average hourly wage of around $13; 15% get health insurance through their jobs.
4. Software Developer
Although software developers need to be able to collaborate with other developers on their team, they may spend much of their time working alone—a perfect situation for someone who needs to minimize their contact with others. Like other tech jobs, work can also be done at home, which can be helpful during public health crises and other times when staying close to home is a safer choice. This job generally requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Salary and Benefits: Per the BLS, software developers earn a median annual salary of $105,590. PayScale reports that 84% of these workers have employer-sponsored health insurance.
5. Technical Writer
Technical writers, who write instruction manuals and other complex documentation so that it can be understood by a non-technical audience, is another role that offers flexibility and the opportunity to socially distance. Most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree for technical writer candidates.
Salary and Benefits: PayScale reports that the average annual salary for technical writers is about $60,000; 80% have health insurance through work.
What Protections Must an Employer Afford to Immunocompromised Workers?
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, it’s illegal for covered employers to discriminate against disabled applicants or employees based upon their disability. All employers with 15 or more employees are covered by the ADA including state and local governments and labor unions. If you have a disability that “substantially limits a major life activity,” you are considered disabled under the ADA.
In practice, this means that most employers will be required under the law to provide “reasonable accommodations” to immunocompromised workers.
Reasonable accommodations might include offering the option to telecommute or making alterations to a workspace to increase physical distancing, such as constructing plexiglass barriers.
The ADA also applies to job applicants. A covered employer may not inquire about possible disabilities or require a medical exam before making a conditional offer of employment.
However, it’s important to know that employers are not required to offer accommodations that pose “undue hardship,” which generally means significant expense or difficulty, according to the ADA.
What to Say in an Interview
If you’re immunocompromised and looking for work, you might wonder how transparent you should be during job interviews. While you will ultimately have to decide for yourself how to proceed, these are good guidelines to consider:
Do your homework. Before investing your valuable time on interviewing with an employer, research the company to learn as much as possible about the corporate culture. Look at reviews and company profiles on Glassdoor, speak to any friends or contacts who are current or former employees at the organization, and read recent news stories about the company. Look for signs that the employer offers a good work-life balance, and be alert for any red flags that indicate the opposite.
First interviews are for making a good impression. At the beginning of the interview process, focus on making a good impression and forming your own idea of what it would be like to work at the organization. Don’t ask the interviewer questions about health insurance, workplace flexibility, or work-from-home options unless they bring up these possibilities.
Save questions about benefits, health insurance, etc., for HR. The human resources representative will be able to advise you about health insurance plans. Once you have met with the hiring manager at least once, received an invitation for a second interview, and have determined that you would like to move forward, consider asking HR for information about benefits.
Ask questions about culture, work-life balance, and related issues. Most interviewers will leave time for your questions, typically at the end of the interview. Use this time to ask questions like:
- How would you describe your company culture?
- Tell me about a typical workday for someone in this role.
- What’s the most challenging part of this job?
What Makes You a Good Candidate, Immunocompromised or Not
The most important thing to take with you into the job interview process is the knowledge that your skills and abilities are more important than your limitations. To show that you’re the best person to help the company achieve its goals, you should:
- Match your qualifications to the job description: Decode the job advertisement to determine which skills are most valuable to the employer. Then, demonstrate that your qualifications make you the best candidate for the job.
- Avoid self-sabotage: While you should never lie during interviews, you’re not obligated to volunteer information that could hurt your chances. You needn’t mention your requirements for accommodation right off the bat. Wait until the appropriate time later in the process to ask about benefits and flexibility.
- Be aware of what employers can and can’t ask: Hiring managers should not ask potentially discriminatory questions, including those about disability, in job interviews.
- Stay positive: Focus on what you have to offer, not what accommodations you’ll need in order to be able to do your job. Your skills and experience are valuable. Don’t undersell yourself—even to yourself.