Thinking about requesting accommodations for your arthritis at work?
Only you will know best what accommodations might be helpful and possible at your workplace, but here are some common types of “asks” to get you brainstorming.
Flexible Work Hours
Some jobs require you to work at a particular time, but in many workplaces the hours are somewhat arbitrary, meaning you might not need to be there from exactly 9 to 5, but could instead work 7-3 or 10-6. Point out to your boss that the benefits of flexible work hours go both ways because you will be more productive during the hours when you have the greatest energy and least pain, rather than at arbitrarily determined times.
This flexibility can be particularly helpful if you commute. You may be able to avoid rush-hour traffic and spend less time sitting in your car or standing on transit, which means you’ll start your work day with less pain.
Sitting at a desk all day can be physically punishing to any body, let alone one with arthritis. Finding a chair that can be properly adjusted can make a huge difference. For jobs that require lifting, find or request a dolly to move heavy objects. If you stand a lot at work, an anti-fatigue floor mat and a foot rail will help reduce wear and tear on your body.
Task and Timing Adaptations
See if there is an opportunity to work in tandem with a co-worker. For example, on days when you are experiencing a flare-up, perhaps you and a co-worker can help each other out by dividing up tasks - if they can do more of the lifting, you can do more of the organizing. Perhaps, instead of spending all morning doing one type of task and all afternoon doing another, alternating between them more frequently can give your body a break.
Many service industry jobs have a rule that you can’t sit even if there are no customers. Let your employer know that you will be able to perform your duties more effectively if you can occasionally take the weight off your feet. Ask if you can try having a stool for a week to prove to them that it won’t affect your productivity. These are good examples of what you can reasonably ask from your employer when it comes to established rules.
Work from Home
Thanks to advances in technology, many jobs no longer need to be done in a specific place. Working from home even one day a week might make a big difference in your fatigue and pain levels.
This is a good reason to discuss your condition with your employer even if your symptoms are mild: proving to your boss that you can work unsupervised and that your productivity remains high when you work at home will allay any fears they might have about the arrangement, and they will be more comfortable accommodating you in the future if you need to work from home should your symptoms worsen.
Creating a Contingency Plan
Explaining the episodic nature of your flare-ups means that your co-workers will know to expect changes from day-to-day. Develop an A-B-C plan: “A” is what you will do most days. “B” is for when you need to modify your tasks somewhat. “C” is what you will do if things are really bad and you can’t work.
This conversation can be tough to start, but it means that no one will have to scramble to figure out what to do. It might even help you talk about your symptoms — you can tell your co-worker that “this is a B-day” and they’ll know what to expect.
For more information about how to manage your arthritis at work, visit our Joint Matters at Work online learning module or our other workplace resources.