For people with Lupus, a formal diagnosis can take years. That time is often filled with uncertainty and quite a bit of pain. This feeling can continue even after a diagnosis is reached. This is especially true in the workplace, as the pressure to perform can be high. In fact, the risk of unemployment is four times higher in Lupus patients than in the general population of similar demographic makeup (Palter, 2017).This is worsened by the fact that general symptoms of joint pain, headaches, confusion, memory loss, fatigue, and sensitivity to light are worsened by the stress and ultraviolet light found in many workplaces (Mayo Clinic, 2017; Lupus Foundation of America, 2017).
Many people who have lupus (or are searching for a diagnosis) are uncomfortable with their condition being widely known, but privacy and modifications are not mutually exclusive. There are areas in your work life you can develop to improve your health and well-being that also happen to be discreet.
The main areas you can focus on developing are: comfort, stress reduction, preparation, and healthy habit creation. Specifically modifying your work-space, creating a mobile kit, and developing healthy habits will result in the biggest changes. Most people would benefit from developing these areas, but for people with Lupus and/or other chronic conditions, this could make a drastic difference in quality of life.
Your Work Space
As much as is feasible in your workplace, customize the space to fit your needs, both physically and mentally. Physically, you may want to make ergonomic adjustments such as: seat adjustments, cord management, and adding anti-fatigue mats. As ergonomics and overall wellness within the workplace are high priorities for most employers, these modifications are usually quite discreet. You may also wants to start or increase your usage of reminder (productivity) devices such as notepads, planners, sticky notes, and digital calendars.
Additionally, your workplace aesthetic is more important than you may believe. If your planner is something you enjoy looking at, you’re more likely to use it. This concept can be applied to your work-space in general by adding pictures of loved ones, a laminated list of goals, and other decorations to your personal space, even if that is just a locker.
Practically, this can also mean keeping things such as a formal blazer in the office, or an extra work-shirt in your car.
With keeping things at work, it is important to create a work kit you can take with you. This should contain anything you need to make you feel prepared. This will reduce your stress as you will have the tools to cope with situations as they come up. For example, keeping extra medication means that you won’t have to choose between leaving work or having your health suffer in the event you forget to take it.
Some things I recommend to include:
- Toiletries: deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, dry shampoo, etc.
- Healthy snacks
- Water bottle
- Sunglasses (especially if you experience migraines)
- Extra medication
- Mini sewing kit
- Stain remover pen
- Personal care items: chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, cough drops, eyeglass cloth and cleaner, extra makeup, etc.
The general habit of being prepared will help you beyond coping with lupus. It will also make your work life easier since your productivity is front-loaded as opposed to a last-minute focus. This includes developing a routine to both start and finish your workday.
The best way to put all the above into practice is to complement it with healthy habits. Below are habits that are becoming popular (and thus more likely to be discreet).
Micro Breaks: https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/workstation-ergonomics-take-break
In general, you should listen to your body. Addressing your pain or discomfort right way will lessen your pain overall and hopefully enhance your ability to work. Pain and discomfort may be your body's way of asking for more water, a stretch, medication, or something else.
For some, formal job accommodations may be needed. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at askjan.org is a free service by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy that offers consultants who will talk with you about your limitations and help brainstorm accommodations.
Find out more about lupus here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus/symptoms-causes/syc-20365789
About The Author
Kylie McGill has a BBA from Eastern Michigan University. She has worked as an HR Manager and is currently an Associate Consultant for Amy Cell Talent. After her diagnosis of SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus), she intentionally implemented different coping mechanisms over a period of six months. Through combining her experience with Lupus and knowledge in HR, she has drastically improved her work life and hopes this information will help others.
Palter, J. T. (2017, September 27). Employment and workplace productivity. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://resources.lupus.org/entry/employment-workplace-productivity
Mayo Clinic. (2017, October 25). Lupus. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus/symptoms-causes/syc-20365789
Lupus Foundation of America. (2017, October 17). Common triggers for lupus. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://resources.lupus.org/entry/common-triggers