No one wants to feel restricted from doing their job properly, especially if the reason you can’t do your job is because of arthritis caused by your job.
Physical demands at work can inflame or even cause arthritis. A diverse range of sectors can be responsible for causing the widely suffered health problem. Construction, the textile industry, dancers, musicians, and even those sat at their desks typing and scrolling can suffer from arthritis due to the repetitive and sometimes high-impact movements involved in day-to-day tasks.
While you may feel daunted approaching your boss about the impact of arthritis on your work (39% of UK workers don’t feel comfortable discussing health matters with their employers), the 2010 UK Equality Act and the NI Disability Discrimination Act states that you’re entitled to support from your employer. They should make the appropriate adjustments to ensure you can do your job in a comfortable and safe environment without impacting negatively on your condition. You also can’t be discriminated against because of your condition.
Who is it most likely to effect?
Arthritis affects a variety of individuals, and it’s not always easy to recognise who suffers from it. However, statistics show that women are more likely to have it; for example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects three times more women than men. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop it, with those over 65 having an almost 50/50 chance of getting it. It also affects people who are obese (31%), people with diabetes, and people with heart disease.
What’s the professional impact?
Living with arthritis is never easy, and if you’re in work during a flare-up, you may feel unable to carry out your tasks comfortably. Sick days are an obvious byproduct of suffering from arthritis. RA sufferers take almost 14 days of sick leave annually, compared to less than 10 taken by the rest of the workforce.
Lack of understanding in work culture leads some to leave work altogether, or their mental health might be negatively impacted. 17% of those calling in work sick with arthritis lied about the reason because they felt their employer wouldn’t understand.
If you haven’t already, read up on the 2010 Equality Act. Your boss should be making reasonable adjustments to make your work as comfortable as possible. You’re entitled to these changes, so don’t be afraid to ask for them. Some examples of reasonable adjustment can include flexible working arrangements, work equipment that relieves symptoms, e.g. an adjustable desk chair if you work sitting down, or regular breaks if you’re on your feet all day.
You shouldn’t be treated less favourably than other employees as a result of your arthritis. Having an understanding of how to navigate work culture and management should be the norm for all sufferers, although it’s ultimately your management responsibility to ensure they are following the guidelines. If this isn’t the case, they may well be in breach of the Equality Act.
What about lifestyle changes?
Although there’s no ‘cure’, and genetics play a massive part in determining who might get arthritis, there are some lifestyle alterations you can make to lessen the symptoms or reduce your chances of suffering from it in the future.
As previously noted, a large proportion of sufferers have other, mostly preventable, chronic conditions. Those with obesity, heart disease and diabetes are likely to suffer from arthritis. Lifestyle changes, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet and not smoking, can help prevent some of the conditions associated with arthritis. Many people can struggle to make permanent changes, but seeking the advice of a medical professional is always a good place to start the journey.
Relieving symptoms at work.
- Take breaks from repetitive motions
- Placing the parts of your body that are affected in ‘neutral’ positions
- Regularly change your posture throughout your working day
- Make sure your boss is making reasonable accommodations to make sure you can work in the most comfortable position possible.
Because the symptoms of arthritis are unpredictable, it’s tough to balance work with the condition. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t still excel with the right support in place. Make sure your work and its culture are accommodating in both attitudes and practise. And, if you feel like work is simply too much, even with accommodations, you’re not alone, and there are various support networks you can access.