How to Stay Afloat at Work When You Have a Chronic Illness

IfYoung business man with problems and stress in the office you’ve been faced with a chronic illness, cancer diagnosis or any other qualifying sickness, you know you hard it can be to juggle everyday life—especially a job. Going to doctor’s appointments and the impact of fatigue and other symptoms can make keeping up with work responsibilities seem impossible.

Some people may have the ability to work from home, so their schedule is more flexible, but for others, they may not have this luxury. Luckily, there are federal laws in place that can protect your rights as an employee and allow those with a qualified illness or disability to time off. Some of these laws include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This law prohibits workplace discrimination against those with a qualifying disability or illness, protects employees from losing their job and require employers to provide employees with reasonable work accommodations.
  • The Rehabilitation Act: Similar to the ADA, this law also prohibits disability discrimination against workers in the federal sector—such as the U.S Postal Services.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act: Under this law, employees are granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected medical leave per year.

So how do you know if you should continue to work during your illness? The decision comes down to your personal circumstances and how they affect your day-to-day work life. Some people may feel good enough to work and continue because it helps them maintain a sense of “normalcy.” The factors you’ll want to consider are:

  • Your type of work
  • The stage or seriousness of your illness
  • Your symptoms and side effects
  • What medical care you are receiving


Tips for Continuing Work During an Illness

If you feel well enough to continue working, work can still be manageable by making small adjustments to your daily routine. Here are a few tips to get you started:


1. Come up with reasonable accommodations with your employer

As mentioned, under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable work accommodations to employees who have a qualifying illness or disability—meaning a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more life activities. Reasonable accommodations are any changes to a job, job function or work environment that assists a qualified employee’s job performance. Here are a few examples of accommodations you and your employer can decide on:

  • Changing job tasks
  • Allowing you to have a flexible schedule
  • Giving you the option to work from home
  • Granting time off for any medical appointments
  • Creating a more comfortable work environment

These accommodations come down to your illness and your employers’ willingness to provide these accommodations, but for them to be deemed reasonable, they must not create undue hardship or direct threat to your job.


2. Set boundaries

When working with an illness, it’s important to set boundaries with yourself. Be realistic about what you can handle, so you don’t overexert yourself. Try making a daily schedule and pencil in time for frequent breaks. This will help you regain energy if you’re feeling fatigued and help you have a more productive workday.


3. Communicate with your manager and coworkers

Though you don’t always have to disclose your diagnosis to your team, it could be helpful to let them know so you can have the extra support. At the very least, you should be communicating your illness to your manager so they can help come up with those work accommodations.

If you aren’t feeling your best on a particular day and are feeling overwhelmed, communicate this to your manager so they can work with you and your colleagues to help find a solution—like offloading some tasks to coworkers or allowing you to take a half-day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If you’ve communicated your situation to your team, they’ll more than likely be willing to lend a helping hand.

Working with an illness isn’t easy, but with the right accommodations, it’s definitely doable. Always remember to advocate for yourself in the workplace so your employer can understand and support your needs. For more tips on working with an illness, check out this visual guide on how to stay afloat at work while receiving medical care.

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About the Author: Corey Doane is a digital content marketer who helps Asbestos create helpful and compelling content worth sharing. She has a passion for writing and loves creating content that covers health, lifestyle and wellness topics. When she isn’t working, you can find her at the beach or spending time with her family.

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