Working when you have a chronic illness, like Gastroparesis, is a challenge. However, for those who are able to work, there are strategies and actions that you can put into place to improve your workplace experience. Pact Blog writer Nancy has some great advice on navigating the two.
What you should research before bringing it up at work
Before disclosing your illness to your employer, identify what accommodations you may need. For example, do you require more frequent restroom breaks to take medication or to eat? Would you like to be able to work from home (if an option) when not feeling well? Talk to your primary care physician or gastroenterologist to aid in determining accommodations.
Familiarize yourself with your company policies. Find out if The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is available and if are you eligible. FMLA is job protection legislation and provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Serious medical conditions, including gastrointestinal conditions, are covered under FMLA. FMLA requires medical certification by a health care professional.
How will your benefits or job responsibilities change if an accommodation is put into place? Are you able to perform your job when your condition flares-up? Do you have time-dependent reports that would be impacted if you are unable to perform your work? If you reduce you working hours, are you eligible for the same level of health and dental benefits? Be aware of the trade-offs between your job/career and managing your illness.
What to say now that it’s time to talk to your employer
Once you have identified accommodations and familiarized yourself with your company policies, you are ready to discuss your accommodation request with your direct manager or a human resources (HR) representative. Describe Gastroparesis briefly but describe specifically how it impacts your ability to perform your job. Discuss the specific accommodations that you need. Be prepared to document your accommodation request in writing.
Working remotely / telecommuting
If your employer is unable to offer reasonable accommodations, you may need to find a job that permits the accommodations. For example, if you are in retail sales or work in the service industry, working from home is not an option. To investigate work from home opportunities, refer to the following sites: Indeed, Career Builders, or Top 12 Jobs You Can Do From Home.
What if you just can’t work
If you are not able to work, consider applying for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI). SSDI can take time and money to request and may require you to hire a lawyer to work through the process.
Working when you have a chronic illness can be a struggle, but it is possible. In 2012, the CDC estimated that 50% of adults’ deal with chronic illness. Know your limitations and the impact of working with a chronic illness. Just like finding a good work/life balance, find your work/illness balance.