Managing Chronic Conditions In The Workplace
If you’re dealing with a chronic condition, you’re not alone. Recent findings from Georgetown University show that 58 million U.S. adults have at least one chronic condition, while 19 million have at least two chronic conditions.
However, almost all of us still have to figure out a way to go to work and pay our bills. People with chronic conditions can find themselves taking unpaid time off just to manage their health. Individuals with one of five chronic conditions – hypertension, mood disorders, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma – lose an estimated $36 billion yearly in wages.
Even if your employer offers sick and vacation days, returning to the office likely means playing catch-up on work when you’re not feeling at your best. This vicious cycle can lead to continually feeling run-down and overwhelmed.
However, managing your condition at the workplace can be relatively simple with the help of your employer and a few key steps you can take on your own.
Inform Your Boss And Co-Workers
In order to receive accommodation for your chronic condition, you are required to inform your employer that you’re a person living with a disability. Although you must inform what your functional limitations are, you don’t have to tell them what your specific condition or disability is.
You aren’t required to inform your co-workers of your condition, but it may be in your best interest to do so. A person with epilepsy would likely want their colleagues to know in case they suffer from a seizure. If you need to frequently leave the office to visit your doctor or take medications, understanding why you’re doing this may also diffuse any potential tension between your co-workers.
Ask For Accommodations
Certain forms of accommodation you may be able to receive from your employer include designated breaks to take medication or not being required to stand for long periods of time. They may also work with your schedule to support compressed work weeks or telecommuting for a day or two each week. It may be helpful to obtain a doctor’s note that supports these requests.
However, it’s also important to note that your employer does not have to provide an accommodation if they deem it too expensive or difficult to create. For example, if you’re unable to drive to work, your employer isn’t required to hire a driver for you.
If you have a serious health condition that renders you unable to perform your job, the Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that gives you the legal right to take 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period. Although this time off is unpaid, it ensures your job will be waiting for you when you return.
Your company may also have a disability policy that allows you to take specific amounts of time off at reduced pay. The consulting firm Mercer reports that 78 percent of employers have short-term disability plans and 80 percent offer long-term disability plans.
Explore Other Options
If your job simply can’t facilitate accommodations or extended time off, then it may not be the right position for you. Ask your employer about working part-time or taking a different position in the company. It may also be worth looking to see if a different company would be more accommodating to your needs
You should also consider if your job is exacerbating your health issues. If you suffer from a serious heart condition, working as a lawyer with long hours is not ideal. This could be an ideal time to reflect on what you truly want to do in life and begin pursuing it.