Managing a Chronic Illness in the Workplace


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The workplace can be a stressful and fraught environment, filled with deadlines, office politics and various tasks that all need your attention immediately. These worries can become exacerbated when you’re also dealing with a chronic illness. Whether you’re managing Crohn’s, Colitis or a mental health condition, a chronic illness is bound to take up time and energy and can be tricky to deal with at work. Do you tell your boss? Your colleagues? What allowances are they actually required by law to make for you?  

Here are 6 things to think about when dealing with a chronic illness in the workplace, which might help make your life a little easier.


  1. Know your rights

Since the Equality Act of 2010 came into force, employers have been required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for those with a disability or condition, in order to combat and avoid discrimination.  Various guides can be found detailing the exact right and circumstances for each condition, which should get you up to speed on exactly what you’re entitled to.


  1. Speak to your boss

This is, of course, dependent on your own judgment of the situation and your employment arrangements, but opening up a dialogue with your line manager about how your condition makes things a little tougher for you can be a brave and beneficial thing to do. This means that your employer can educate themselves as to the condition, and could open up flexible working options for you. It will also mean that you get your full statutory rights (regarding the ‘reasonable adjustments’ above), and any sick days you have to take will be understood rather than scrutinised.


  1. Plan ahead

If you put this philosophy into practice on both a day-to-day and longer-term basis, your life will become much easier. Once settled into a routine at work you can plan ahead for daily tasks and difficulties to make life easier for yourself. For example, if you need to get up an hour earlier than others normally would to accommodate for bowel conditions, you can work this into the day. Make adjustments where you can pick your battles at work so that you can really put into effect the workplace adjustments and alterations that are needed.

In the longer term, keeping clear records and certificates of your medical history will ensure quick and easy proof of illness should your employer require it, as well as aiding you in keeping track of your medical progression over the years.


  1. Be realistic

 If you’ve bad Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, don’t expect to work as a tour guide in the amazon. Whilst your choice of career should never be hampered by your condition, work with it to give yourself the opportunity to excel. Some of us were never destined to be Olympians or runway models, but remember that there is something you’re brilliant at – even if you haven’t found it yet.  


  1. Don’t be embarrassed

If you need to take frequent or long breaks during work, consider mentioning to your colleagues or those that sit next to you what you have to deal with. This will help to create an environment of understanding, rather than one of scrutiny or suspicion. This is, of course, entirely at your own discretion, and may be more difficult if you’re living with an illness that attracts a greater amount of social stigma such as Aids or mental health problems.


  1. Work smart: productivity your way

If mornings or evenings are more tricky for you, schedule your time and priorities to accommodate this. When planning, make sure you work in contingency time and don’t stress if you’re struggling and don’t get all that you want to get done in an afternoon. Work hard on good days to get ahead and remember that whilst others may be able to work consistently that may not be possible for you, so don’t judge yourself by others standards of productivity or output.



Alexandra Jane is the writer and editor of graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs. 


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