The chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia, such as fatigue, headaches, widespread pain and brain fog can make it difficult to work, however, many sufferers continue to keep a full or part-time profession. Being open and honest with your employer about your fibromyalgia can seem like a daunting task, but, by doing so, you will be able to work with them to ensure you can continue to provide a high quality of work without affecting your health. In this blog post, we speak to Sue Hadden, to find out how she personally approached the situation and the impact it has had on her condition and working life.
First of all Sue, how did you tell your employer about your fibromyalgia diagnosis?
I decided to tell my employer during the interview stage; I knew I had to be honest and just come out with it, so I did. However, to ensure I was taken seriously, I emphasised that I was not in the habit of taking days off work and that I worked hard through the pain barrier. Afterwards, I thought I’d blown my chance, but here I am a fifteen months later loving what I do for a living.
What were your initial fears about telling your employer about fibromyalgia?
Initially, my main fear was that they would already know the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and, as a result, think that I would not be able to cope with the job at hand.
After being honest with your employer, what has changed in the workplace in order to make things more comfortable for you?
Like any other fibromyalgia sufferer, I experience a wide range of symptoms, and it’s not always that easy and can be very challenging. My employer has been very empathetic and has made reasonable adjustments for me, as well as ensuring that my office space and chair are suitable.
I thoroughly enjoy coming to work every day, and the fact that I don’t need to hide how I’m feeling if I’m having a bad day relieves a lot of pressure. I truly understand what clients are going through, and one client, in particular, referred to me whilst on the phone as their lifeline, proving that how we do things is just as important as what we do.
Have you experienced any other positive effects as a result of telling your employer about fibromyalgia?
Being open with my employer has made it easier to talk openly about fibromyalgia to my colleagues and other people in general; in the past, I’ve kept quiet about my condition and even now, there are people who I’ve known for a very long time who don’t know I suffer from fibromyalgia. I have been able to give ‘Talks’ to different Support Groups about my life, and I believe it has helped other people cope better with their Fibromyalgia. The feedback has been excellent, and I find that very rewarding. Revealing you have fibromyalgia can be tough, but if you’re willing to be open and honest, you won’t feel as isolated and you can make people more aware of this condition, and what helps and what doesn’t, as well as possibly making a difference along the way.
Sue’s honest and forthcoming approach to her diagnosis has allowed her to feel more empowered and in control of her disorder. She is also able to cope better with symptoms and manage her workflow. If you’re also a fibromyalgia sufferer and struggling in the workplace, it may be time to have this discussion. Here are some pointers to help prepare and keep in mind:
If you recently received a diagnosis
If you were recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make changes to your work. Get an assessment to see how your symptoms will affect you and your ability to work, and whether you need to make changes. Monitor your symptoms and how they affect your performance and your quality of work. You want to avoid a situation in which your employer is unaware that you are disabled, but believes that you are bad at your job.
If you notice that something has changed that will impact your work, talk to your employer and discuss how you can make changes that will allow you to work efficiently. . However, you are not required to disclose information about your fibromyalgia or any other disability unless it poses a risk at work to you or others.
How to tell your employer about your fibromyalgia:
If you choose to inform your employer about your fibromyalgia, emphasise that you are not in the habit of taking days off work and be honest about the amount of work you feel you are capable of doing. You may want to bring supporting documentation. Although there is no need to share all your details, a written diagnosis from your doctor may help demonstrate your illness is real and ongoing.
In addition to reassuring your employer, ensure you are well informed about your condition and can answer any questions they may have. If you are uncertain about anything, contact your doctor for answers and ask for their advice about what changes they would recommend are made to your workplace and job.
If you have a human resource department talk to them first to find out your rights relating to the laws and regulations regarding workplace discrimination against those who have very real and verifiable health conditions.
During the conversation, do your best to keep your employer at ease by remembering this is completely new to them. Take initiative and don’t downplay your capabilities. Let them know your quality of work may improve without the extra stress of hiding your condition. It is also important to maintain a positive and confident tone of voice and to be cooperative rather than defensive and negative.
Explaining why you have not informed them of your fibromyalgia yet
Although you are not required to do so, if you have worked at your job for a while, you may want to explain why you had not disclosed your condition earlier. You can explain that it was either because your condition has worsened and only now it is affecting your quality of work, only now you feel comfortable talking about it or something at your job has changed.
Making adjustments to your work
Fibromyalgia can cause people to suffer from a wide range of symptoms that can make working incredibly challenging. However, an employer is required to make reasonable adjustments for you, and ensure that your workspace is suitable. By explaining your symptoms and how they affect you to your employer, you will be able to work together to maximise your efficiency at work, while ensuring you are comfortable and not disadvantaged. They may offer flexible working hours, additional rest breaks and task rotation. They may also reduce the number of physical tasks required of you, shorten your hours or allow you to work from home.
If you’re still unsure whether or not to tell your employer about your fibromyalgia diagnosis or you feel that you’ve been unfairly treated in your workplace, get in touch with us here for further advice on your specific case.
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