Chronic illness can shake your world. One moment you’re perfectly healthy, enjoying life. Then, the next moment, you’re seriously ill and struggling to do the simplest tasks. Activities that used to come easily now require careful thought and planning. Life activities you once took for granted, such as breathing, eating, or walking, are now difficult.
You once worried about work-life balance, but now your primary concern is making it from one day to the next without experiencing a serious health crisis. Laws like the ADA and FMLA are designed to protect employees from being fired due to disability or medical reasons, but the reality is that it can still be a challenge to maintain employment and still take good care of yourself. Yet many chronically ill workers who are facing serious health issues need to keep working due to the financial burden that comes along with their massive medical bills and the need for health insurance.
If you’re facing this dilemma, we’re here to help. Here’s how not to get fired when you have a chronic illness.
Be honest with your boss
In this case, it’s a good idea to meet with your boss and let him or her know you have a chronic illness. It’s up to you how much detail you give.
Talk to human resources
Ask for accommodations
Perhaps you could request to work from home a few days a week. If doctor’s appointments have become difficult to schedule because of strict office hours, ask whether you could change your work schedule, so you can get all your appointments in.
Know your rights
Although many employers would do their best to accommodate a chronically ill employee, you could run into resistance. Some bosses will not be eager to assist you, especially if you don’t look visibly ill. If you’ve been denied an accommodation that is necessary to do your job, speak with your human resources manager. Tell him or her about your situation and why you need the accommodation. Some illnesses are considered disabilities, so it might be your legal right to receive the adjustment. If you’re unsure, consult with an employment lawyer.
Beware office bullies
This type of situation can occur when a chronically ill worker doesn’t look visibly ill or disabled. Receiving a modified work arrangement for an “invisible” disability or illness, such as asthma, could make others in the workplace become resentful or think you’re exaggerating your illness.
Consequently, others might complain about you to your boss and pick on you for minor work issues. Be on guard for this behavior, and document everything that goes on.
Take care of yourself
As soon as you start to feel sick, address the issue, and get the treatment you need. Delaying care could cause complications at work. Waiting to see a doctor could mean more days out of work and a longer recovery time.
Check in regularly
Resist the urge to shrink into the shadows and fall below the radar. Your financial future could depend on it. “People with low self-esteem often try to remain under the radar screen because they don’t want to be noticed, but especially in this economy, that is the wrong thing to do,” Lois P. Frankel, author and founder of Corporate Coaching International, told Forbes.
Managing — or more accurately, battling — a chronic illness is physically and mentally taxing. It will be very important that you have someone to talk to regularly. A mental health professional can help you work through all of the ups and downs that come along with balancing sickness and a demanding work load. Also, keep close friends and family in the loop.
You’ll need as much support as you can get. Having a trusted support circle will reduce the chances of you having a meltdown at work when things get tough. It’s OK to be sad or angry about what is happening to you, but dealing with those emotions in healthy ways is key.
There are tools available to help you thrive in your work and personal life while managing a chronic illness. You can still have a successful career even though you aren’t as healthy as you once were. Here are some resources that can assist you with your journey.
- Business from Bed: The 6-Step Comeback Plan to Get Yourself Working Again After a Health Crisis
- The Chronic Illness Workbook
- Chronic Resilience
This article was originally published on The Cheat Sheet.