If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis…
Do you dread going to work because of your IBD?
Maybe you are sick of making up excuses for missing work due to a flare. Or perhaps you are worried that if you leave early for one more “dentist appointment” (that is actually a gastroenterologist appointment), then you are going to get fired.
Don’t lose hope. Let’s talk about three ways to balance IBD with your job.
1. Be open with your employer
It can be very helpful to be open with your employer when you start a new job or after you are first diagnosed with IBD. The decision to disclose health information is completely up to you, but it can be worth it.
Here are just some of the reasons why you should consider talking to your employer about your IBD.
You don’t look sick to your boss
Like many with IBD, you have likely learned how to put on a brave face even when your insides are screaming. But your boss has no idea that you’re suffering on the inside. If you take multiple sick days without a specific explanation or if you start coming in late for no apparent reason, your manager may make their own assumptions about you.
Telling the person you report to directly about what’s going on with your health can help make it much easier to balance your work and your IBD.
You can request accommodations
While each case is different, you may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which would allow you to request reasonable accommodations from your employer.
Even if your situation does not qualify under the ADA, you can still consider discussing accommodations with your employer.
Accommodations for IBD can include access to a toilet during work hours or the ability to miss work for scheduled doctor’s appointments without repercussions.
Depending on your job, you may also be able to request remote work or find out if they allow you the flexibility to work from home if needed. You won’t know what they are willing to provide unless you ask.
Now that your manager understands your situation, you still have the rest of your coworkers to consider.
2. Bring your work buddies into the loop
Even if your manager knows about your IBD, you may still have to deal with hurtful comments from your coworkers who don’t understand why you had to leave that budget meeting early or why you’ve had so many “appointments” this year.
While it really is none of their business, you may want to let your work friends know what’s going on. They will most likely be extremely supportive and may offer to cover for you when needed.
If you ask for support, people typically want to step up and help!
3. Manage work stress to avoid flares
Everyone experiences some level of work-induced stress, but the key is learning how to manage it. Stress management is particularly important when you have IBD.
We’ve already discussed how adding journaling into your morning routine can help you manage stress in this article. A few other ways to help manage work stress can include taking a walk during your breaks, practicing deep breathing at your desk, and not taking on more than you can handle.
IBD can complicate all areas of your life, and work is no exception. Stress management by itself can only get you so far. But if you already have an understanding boss and supportive co-workers, it will be much easier to navigate the daily pressures of your job. By stepping up and advocating for yourself, you may help make changes in your workplace that will benefit others who are suffering in silence!
Katelyn Collins, RD is a registered dietitian and health writer specializing in digestive health. Katelyn’s personal experience with a digestive condition first sparked her passion for nutrition and health. Since then, she has been a vocal advocate for the digestive health community and has dedicated her own nutrition practice to serving those with digestive conditions.