Managing chronic illness in the workplace

Even the most invisible chronic illness may prevent you from doing your job. Here are some ways to handle such circumstances at work.

By Cindy Pivacic.


Be honest with yourself. Your illness is a reality that needs to be managed, and you should not deny it just because you are at work. 

Your illness is an actuality that you need to deal with, and you should not deny it just because you’re at work. If you’re experiencing symptoms, recognize and approach them with caution rather than working until you collapse.

Be truthful with yourself, both physically and emotionally. Many people fear losing their job and are clueless about their rights or are incapable of keeping on top of their workload. Pushing yourself too far and placing your health at risk will only hurt you in the long run.

1. Find a balance between work and health.

 Many people put work before their health, but that should not be an option. Your illness should not mean you will not thrive in your career; you should take care of yourself first. Working outside your health limitations can result in reduced work quality and cause health risks – neither is worth proving a point to yourself nor your employer. If you have a valid reason to slow down, do NOT disregard it. Find an alternative option to be productive without shattering your body or mind.

2. Disclose your diagnosis sensibly.

You don’t need to tell anyone about your condition unless you want to. However, subject to the severity of it, consider divulging the facts to your employer if it could potentially affect your job. 

3. Prepare for sick days.

 You may anticipate that your illness will conflict with your work programme or duties, so inform your employer in advance.

 4. Know your rights.

 As an employee with a chronic health condition, you have the right to ask for reasonable adjustments as and when required, like flexibility, additional feedback or supervision time, additional instructions on tasks and, most importantly, support from your employer. Identify your rights, and do not t be afraid to use them. 

 5. Research local sick leave laws.

 South Africa has firm sick leave laws worth investigating. These laws will support you when your chronic illness is hampering your ability to work. In that case, you may be able to claim a certain amount of paid sick leave time based on your local laws or company contract. 

A chronic condition can affect anyone. How you manage it is what makes the difference.

You can get cover of up to 3 million rand for your chronic health condition and up to 10 million if you are living with HIV.

SMS CHRONIC to 33857 to find out more. 

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Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only.

It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure, and is not a substitute for professional consultation with a health professional.


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