From diabetes to depression, chronic diseases can derail your work performance and even put your job in jeopardy. But if you have a good chronic disease management plan you can work through your illness and have a productive career.
More and more people are successfully managing chronic conditions at work, mostly out of necessity. Most employers allow time for acute conditions and outpatient procedures, but the same isn’t always true for longer-term conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases and related lifestyle risk factors are the leading drivers of healthcare costs for employers. We’re living (and working) longer, which makes this is a growing concern for a lot of people.
So, let’s look at some of the things that make up a good chronic disease management plan.
Chronic Disease Management Starts with Employer Resources
Take all of the information provided by your healthcare team and consult resources like your employee handbook. Get a thorough understanding of your company’s policies on sick leave, taking time off and accommodations policies.
Your main point of contact for most issues will be your human resources department, which typically handles all issues related to compensation, benefits and staffing.
You may also have access to occupational or corporate healthcare representatives. These professionals are trained to prevent and manage illness in the workplace. They’ll recommend adjustments and accommodations that will help you stay comfortable and productive.
Address your work-related concerns with your employer and colleagues right away. This allows you to set realistic expectations and establish the working conditions that will keep you healthy and productive.
Support from your colleagues is especially important if your disease involves potential emergency situations. These include:
- If you are diabetic, does everyone in your office know the signs of a hypoglycemic attack?
- If you have epilepsy, are your co-workers trained to stay calm and keep you safe in the event of a seizure?
- If you have asthma, do your colleagues know where you keep your inhaler?
It may be uncomfortable to address these concerns, but preparing your colleagues is critical to everyone’s safety and well-being.
Whether you work from home or commute to your office, you’ll need the support of your colleagues. As you manage your condition, workflows and timelines will change, and continued productivity will depend on clear communication. Fortunately, you and your co-workers are working toward a common goal, and they’ll likely be more than happy to help.
Chronic Disease Management Includes Employer Flexibility
If you can’t make it into the office every day, or if your condition doesn’t allow for full-time hours, check your options. Talk to your employer and supervisors about alternatives, including flexible scheduling, part-time hours or work-from-home opportunities.
With so much work being done electronically, your home can serve as a great second office. This will allow you to control more of the variables that alleviate and exacerbate your disease.
Focus on Performance Retention
As part of your chronic disease management plan, you may need to shift your focus from acquiring new skills to retaining the ones you have — at least for now.
Returning to work may be difficult, and unrealistic expectations will cause unnecessary stress. This may not be the time to take on additional responsibilities.
And if you find that you're not able to perform all of the same tasks you once could, look for other areas where you could be a greater asset to your company. Ask yourself:
- What other skills and experience can you apply to your job?
- Are there other employees with whom you could trade responsibilities?
- Is there an opportunity to change jobs altogether?
Chronic disease management aside, your employer may already offer a development program and continuing education budget.
Chronic disease management at work is easier when everyone is on the same page. For more information on ways to manage your chronic disease while balancing a career, talk to your doctor. Or you can get started by downloading our free guide “Know Your Numbers.” You’ll learn what numbers to track as part of any good chronic disease management plan.