How to Thrive in the Workplace with Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Being mindful of your limits is crucial. We all have boundaries that when pushed past can eventually leads to flares. That’s one thing to try and decrease as much as possible.
Asking for Accommodations
- Adjusting your workspace is the first step. Get a comfortable chair with support, computer keyboard and mouse that’s ergonomic, if you’re able. There are even standing desks as an alternative to sitting all day long. The important thing is to keep moving. Grab a work friend and take a 15-minute walk break. When sitting be sure to change your positioning so your joints don’t become stiff or painful.
- If you stand all day, get supportive shoes with good insoles at any store and consider seeing a podiatrist for tailored orthotics that fit your feet.
- Ask to change your schedule around. If you work early in the morning (the period of the day that can be uncomfortable for many due to RA related morning stiffness), coordinate to see if you can come in later in the day, making up hours another time or staying extra. Another option is working from home some days, which help if you’re not feeling well to physically go into work.
Knowing Your Rights
- Discrimination at the workplace can happen. If you feel this is your case, you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)- they act on your behalf so you don’t have to face a discriminatory employer on your own.
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is another option. It’s a service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, that’s free, confidential, and personalized. A principal consultant of JAN, Beth Loy says we help, “help educate people about the Americans with Disabilities Act, brainstorm about what accommodations may help them perform their job better and help them request changes from their employers.”
Managing the Symptoms
- Creating an action plan with your rheumatologist and other members of your medical team, can help you thrive. Be vocal when things at the work place are getting too hard and consider having your doctor write a letter that states clearly your situation to give to your employer.
- Having pain and inflammation relief on hand can help. Consider bringing your icepack or heating pad, pain gels or creams, medications or supplements, every day. If you prep for the day or week ahead, making sure you have everything the night before can minimize the stress of having to search for things last minute.
Seek Advice and Treatment from a Physical or Occupational Therapist
- These medical professionals always ask their patients what their job is to gauge how to best assist them. So make sure you tell a detailed description of what your daily tasks are. They will help by giving you tailored tools, splints, advice, information and mini-goals to make sure you can accomplish your tasks efficiently.