It’s not just about the extra equipment and talking to your manager, it’s also about telling your colleagues so people can offer you extra support. I went on an overnight trip with colleagues and because they all know about my fibromyalgia, they offered to carry my wheeled-suitcase every time we got to some stairs. It was wonderful and made a huge difference in my ability to cope.
I once told my boss about my condition and she asked me, quite simply, “what are the things you struggle with?” I talked her through the daily difficulties, one of which was the walk from the overflow car park to the office.
The next day she came up to me and told me she had picked me up a pass for a disabled parking space right outside the front door. That is a boss who goes the extra mile, but it relied on me being honest and telling her.
Make a Health Drawer
My top drawer at work used to include pens, a calculator, a notebook and other various work-related papers. I recently moved everything down to the second drawer and my top drawer became my health drawer. If you don’t work at a desk, perhaps you could create something similar like a shoe-box in your locker.
My health drawer includes:
- A hot water bottle
- A herbal heat pack
- Pain killers
- Arthritis gloves (excellent support for typing when your hands are cold/sore)
- A silk scarf (wonderful for keeping me feeling soothed when my neck is sore)
- Pernaton gel
What would you put in yours?
Find Practical Work-Wear
Often our work dictates what kind of thing we have to wear or what equipment we have to use. However, be sensible with everything you have control over. I know I have to wear professional office clothing, but there’s no way I can strut around in pencil skirts and three-inch heels (that actually has nothing to do with fibromyalgia for me — I’m just not one of those women).
Instead I make sure I’m smart and professional — and a little bit trendy at times! — but I invest in good, smart work clothing that is practical for what I need.
Other practical work-wear tips include:
- Buy comfortable shoes. They’re often more expensive but they’ll last and your body will thank you for it.
- Wear layers. It helps to cope with changes in temperature which may impact your flare-ups.
- Use a backpack for work. You can find some good smart ones and it helps to spread the weight — even though I’d much rather use an over-shoulder bag that looks much better!
- Buy your own stationery if work won’t let you choose. My employer provides me with a hardback A4 notebook but it’s heavy and awkward so I’ve replaced it with my own A5 softback notebook.
These little things make it easier for me to cope with fibromyalgia and work throughout the working day.
Fibromyalgia and Work: The Bottom Line
If you’re self-employed or a stay-at-home parent then many of these tips won’t seem as relevant. However, the same message applies. Think about the things you have control over and implement changes to make your life easier.
In particular, make sure you have a good support network that can step in when you need some extra help and take control of your condition. When it comes to work versus health, health should always win.