Living Well

Health and wellness advice, self-management tips, inspirational stories and much more to help you live well and flourish when living with arthritis. 

Daily Living

Heading back to work or school this fall?

part of a laptop, sticky notes, part of cisors, crayons

After a long break, getting back into the routine of work or school can feel exciting, and also a bit overwhelming, especially in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the following tips to help you plan your routines this fall. 

COVID-19 Considerations

As many areas of the country enter a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with the spread of the Delta variant, it is important to stay informed about the newest health recommendations for people living with arthritis. Employees and students may be wondering about what they can do to protect themselves, especially if they are immunocompromised or taking immunosuppressing medication. If you’re an employee, check out our article on 6 things to do if returning to work amid COVID

Many regions are recommending a third dose of vaccine for anyone taking anti-CD20 agent medications such as rituximab. Talk to your rheumatologist, or check with your local public health office to determine if you are eligible for a third vaccine dose. To learn more about how to receive a vaccine in your area, visit Vaccines for Covid-19.

For children who are not eligible for vaccines, it is advised to continue following good health practices such as washing hands, coughing or sneezing into elbows, staying home when sick, and wearing masks in public where possible. For more information about kids and Covid-19, visit the Sick Kids Hospital Covid-19 learning hub

In addition to COVID, there are other considerations to keep in mind when returning to school or work this fall. Read on for helpful tips and resources.

Backpacks

For those headed off to school, wearing a backpack all day can feel heavy and uncomfortable. To make sure your backpack fits you or your child’s needs, follow the tips in this video on How to properly fit and use a backpack. Look for a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a waist strap to help distribute the load more evenly. A foam-padded back panel can help prevent sharp edges from digging into the back, while adding zipper pulls such as a loop, key ring, or carabiner clip can make zippers easier to open if hard to grasp.

Packing lunches

Stuck on what meals to make for that first week back at work or school? Packing a lunch for work or school can take some planning. Whether you are using leftovers from the day before, or creating a fresh lunch each day, consider some of these recipes to help with your weekly dinner plans, and filling those lunch boxes as you ease back into your packed lunch routine.  If food prep is difficult for you because of arthritis, consider keeping pre-cut or bite-sized fruits and vegetables such as grapes or baby carrots on hand for a quick snack. Check out our video on Meals Made Easy for more tips or visit our Life Hack videos on Stove-Top Cooking with Pots, Opening Jars, and Tool and Utensil Grips to make life easier in the kitchen.  

Writing 

Getting back to taking meeting or class notes? Hand joint stiffness and pain can limit the ability to grip small or thin items. A pen grip provides a thick and comfortable surface that reduces the strain on your finger joints by making it easier for your fingers to grasp. The non-slip surface of this device also facilitates better grip when holding a pen. Consider adding pen or pencil grips to your back-to-school or -work list this year to make gripping your writing device a more enjoyable experience. Gel ink pens can also be helpful because they flow more easily than some other types of pens. 

Sitting for longer periods at a time

Being back at work or school full-time may mean longer periods of sitting, and possibly using a computer. Whether you are working from home or an office, joint protection is important. The resource Your Body At Work has suggestions for how to minimize strain on your joints to help reduce arthritis symptoms. It is also important to keep moving throughout the day, which can be more difficult when sitting at a desk. Try these exercises and stretches to keep you active and moving during the day.

Discussing accommodations at work

Navigating work with arthritis may include asking for accommodations, or working with your employer to ensure you have all that you need to succeed in your job. Use our arthritis and work resources to learn more about your rights, employer obligations, and how to discuss accommodations with an employer.  Our Accommodations Toolkit provides helpful accommodation suggestions and is searchable by work environment, so that you can find the support you need to thrive in your role. 

Discussing arthritis at school

If your child has arthritis: If you’re not sure how to talk to your child’s teachers about juvenile arthritis, check out Cassie and Friends’ School Toolkit for helpful resources, including customizable template letters to send to school staff. You will also find Gym Class FAQs, videos, and a checklist to help you communicate your child’s needs.

If you are a high school student: Cassie and Friends has a great resource on 5 Helpful Tips for Attending High School with Arthritis, or you can join one of their Teen Arthritis and Autoinflammatory Groups to connect with other youth going through similar experiences.

If you are a post-secondary student: You may want to contact your school’s Accessibility Services to find out supports are available to you and what actions are required on your part to access supports. Visit our article on 5 Tips to Post-Secondary Success to learn more.

Commuting to work or school

Hip and knee pain can make sitting in a car on the way to work or school every day challenging, though sitting in traffic for long periods of time each day is only one consideration. Consider these driving tips or watch this Life hacks driving video for some ideas to make commuting a more comfortable experience.