How to Thrive in the Workplace Even When You are Chronically Ill
Last updated: July 2023
A few months ago, I was employed as legal staff in a company after being diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis a few years back. Technically, this is the first time that I attempted to try to build a career in the legal field, especially after I received my diagnosis.
A month in, I realized that I have began struggling with a few of my symptoms until it became quite difficult to manage. It started to hinder my motivation and my productivity.
A few tips that have worked for me...
Our illness may hinder us for a lot of reasons but each of us has our own rightful place in the corporate world, and we must do everything in our power to claim it, whatever it takes. In this article, I will share a few tips that I found were helpful in managing my illness while maintaining an excellent performance at work.
Disclose your illness to the right people
Be reminded that you are not obliged to share your diagnosis with anyone, especially when you are not comfortable doing so. However, after a few months of working, I realized that sharing this with your managers as well as with your workmates whom you are closely working with.
This is so that they would be aware of the reasons why your job performance or your attendance is being affected, and how your illness is hindering you from performing well. Of course, you should be mindful of whom and what you disclose to people, especially since there are still a lot of stereotypes attached to chronically ill people;
Find a support system at work
As mentioned, finding the right people to lean on for support at work may be difficult at first, especially if you are just newly hired. One of the main challenges that you may encounter is finding the right people whom you can trust.
Know that you may have a hard time finding a working environment that does not only support the chronically ill, but also make arrangements and accommodations that would help them perform well despite their limitations, but you would always find a few good people who are willing to help and to listen along the way.
Know your limits
Understand that although you are excited about the change after struggling with this illness for quite a while, and you are looking forward to this chapter of your life which seems to be like a fresh start, you should do all means possible to make sure that you listen to your body.
Pushing yourself beyond your limits would only be a detriment to you in the long run. Your body knows its boundaries, you have to respect your limit.
Know what works for you
Be mindful of what helps you, what makes your day easier, activities and exercises that make you more productive, and at the same time, take note of those that make your job difficult.
Learn how to manage and conserve your energy. Gauge and determine what your body needs, respect it, and do not commit to doing things that would only cause you further harm.
Prioritize your health
Learn when to say no. Do not be afraid to take breaks and to give your body the rest that it deserves. You may be tempted to compromise your health and your well-being to excel and to perform well, but you may only regret this later especially when your illness starts to take a toll on you.
Your health should be your utmost priority, and you should not neglect what your body needs.
Assess if the job is worth it
You may be overwhelmed with this new chapter of your life, and you may be grateful for this fresh start, but you have to understand that your wellness is more important. Do not be afraid to weigh things and to keep your options open.
Ask yourself the following questions, "Is this worth it?" "Is keeping my job worth everything that I am and would potentially be losing?" "Is this job still worth keeping despite of the pain that I am constantly dealing with?"
Make appropriate arrangements and accommodations
It would be helpful to seek advice from your supervisors or the Human Resources Department. Determine what accommodations would be appropriate to make you more efficient and productive. Respectfully ask and negotiate this with your management.
Although it may be quite uncomfortable to ask for these arrangements, you have to understand that this would not only be beneficial to you, but to your company as well. Creating a comfortable working environment and having a company that accommodates your needs would boost your morale and would motivate you to perform your best.
Defeat the stereotype
We are all aware of the stereotypes attached to people who are dealing with chronic illnesses. As a part of the community, it is our responsibility to make sure that we do our best to prove that these stereotypes are not true.
We can do this by being open about our illness, discussing our symptoms to our workmates, and explaining to them the reason behind the change in our attendance and our performance.
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