Does your workplace work for you?
In the ideal world, diabetes wouldn't be an issue at work, and you'd have the time and space to take care of yourself. Unfortunately, some workplaces don't live up to that.
If your employer has 15 or more employees, you're protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means you're allowed "reasonable accommodation" to test, eat, rest or otherwise care for yourself as needed.1 However, sometimes it may feel like unwritten rules override what's on paper. What can you do when:
- It seems like testing or taking a break is frowned upon?
- You're too new to know how or when to advocate for yourself?
- You worry that your boss or coworkers will hold accommodations against you?
Here's some food for thought.
Plan to prevent highs and lows in the first place. This may mean checking your blood sugar more often so you can treat early and avoid downtime. Pack your own lunch or snacks to help you through the day, so you don't have to just eat what's nearby. And try to adhere to the spirit of the rules, rather than break them entirely. For example, if snacks aren't normally allowed in your work area, ask about the possibility of eating nuts, an energy bar or something similarly discreet and tidy that won't cause a spike in your numbers.
Recognize what stresses you out. Your numbers are more likely to run high when you're stressed,2 so if you know that a specific manager, task or coworker amps you up, you can plan to watch your numbers. Of course, ongoing stress (from, say, a boss who isn't supportive) can also affect your sleep, desire to eat well and motivation to exercise.2 Do your best to tune into the real causes of stress at work.
Think about putting it all out in the open. People don't learn until someone teaches them. This may not be right for everyone, but sharing how you test, inject or pump, calculate meals, and work hard every day to manage diabetes may help people understand why breaks or occasional rests are needed. Rather than seeing your snack as "special treatment," they may recognize it as part of your 24/7 regimen.
Go over their heads. Read up on your rights at the American Diabetes Association, and find out how to take legal action, if needed.
It's not easy, but think about making a move. Jobs can be hard to come by, but it's not worth risking long-term problems to stay in a not-so-diabetes-friendly workplace. Moving on wouldn't just help you physically—it could benefit your emotional well-being and your life outside of work, too. You're worth it!
1U.S. Department of Justice. A guide to disability rights law. Available at: https://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm. Accessed April 21, 2017.
2WebMD. Stress and diabetes. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/stress-diabetes#1. Accessed April 21, 2017.