Re-entering The Workforce
Returning to work is a major step forward in managing a chronic illness. After a period of months or years away from working, returning to work can be immensely rewarding and confidence-boosting.
“When I’m working – on the phone with clients, developing project work and writing, I’m neither confused or sad. I’m a productive person with useful ideas,” writes Rosalind Joffe, who lives with multiple sclerosis and has established a business as a career coach for people living with chronic illness. “Even if I’m not at my best, good enough can be a reasonable standard.”
However, this is only the case if you take the necessary steps to manage your physical and mental health while working again. Consider taking the steps below to help ensure your transition is a smooth one.
Decide if you want to tell co-workers: This is a purely personal decision and you are in no way required to tell colleagues about your chronic illness. But in some cases, like if you suffer from epilepsy, it may be beneficial for your own safety to do so. . 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.
Plan Ahead: If you decide to inform your co-workers about your illness, let them know how they can help. If you suffer from epilepsy, create a document explaining the symptoms and what actions they should taken in the event of a seizure.
Ease your way back in: None of us can give our best effort when we’re exhausted. Even if you are suddenly handed lots of tasks to do, it’s important to make sure to use and conserve your energy wisely. Take breaks during the day as needed and don’t be afraid to use a sick day or two if necessary.
Get emotional support: It’s natural to feel anxious or overwhelmed as you return back to work and establish your old routine. Weekly sessions with a therapist can help you explore and process these emotions more effectively. Most communities also have free support groups available, while online support groups are also available for those who choose to seek help more privately.