How are things at work?

How are things at work?

Working life can be a challenge for everyone, not least for those of us living with a rheumatic diagnosis. Of course it can also work well, especially if you are clear about your needs, and are surrounded by understanding managers and colleagues.

Telling people at work about your diagnosis may not always feel natural. There may be a fear that what you bring up will portray you as weaker or less competent than your colleagues, although this need not be the case at all. Perhaps you have even, thanks to your illness, gained knowledge and insights that can actually be valuable in your work.

What is there to gain?

You decide what feels best for you—to share or keep things to yourself. But regardless of your decision, it can be good to think through whether you have things to gain by being open. Your boss or supervisor, and your closest colleagues, may be able to help improve and make things easier for you if they get to know what it's like to live with your diagnosis.

And of course it's not about you needing to go into details. If you want to be open, explain in broad terms what your illness is about and what challenges you meet at work—for example heavy lifting, standing up for long periods of time, becoming stiff from sitting too much, or simply struggling with fatigue.

It can also be good to explain that the disease comes in flare-ups, and can be unpredictable. If you end up in a worse period, your colleagues are already aware of the problem, which can make it easier for both you and them.

Be specific

If, or when, you have explained your situation, it will also be easier to take concrete measures. Think through, in advance, what would make it easier for you, so that you can be clear. In this way, you help those around you to help you. It can involve different types of measures:

  • Help to plan and prioritize: When you are going through a period of fatigue or increased pain and the stress is piling up, ask for help to decide what is most important here and now, and what can wait.

  • Flexibility opportunities: Depending on the type of job you have, is there an opportunity to work flexible hours? Schedule breaks? Or to work from home one day a week?

  • Ergonomic tools: Be specific about what type of equipment would make a difference for you—a height-adjustable desk, a customizable desk chair, a standing mat or a footrest.

Simply ask yourself the question: What do I need to be able to do a good job without having to compromise my health?