Arthritis at work

As the Government focuses on getting people with health issues back to work or stopping them from dropping out, workingmums.co.uk talks to Sophie about how she manages her arthritis at work.

Stressed women at laptop

 

Sophie is 39 from West Yorkshire. Her career has been in specialist sales and customer service roles and she currently works in the IT sector.

She is a single parent and has inflammatory arthritis, a long-term condition which flares and wanes, causes extreme tiredness and can be unpredictable, making her life unpredictable as well. Sophie is under specialist care and medication, but her condition still makes it hard balancing the demands of parenting, working, household chores and having some personal time.

Work adaptations

Sophie started her current job in 2021, just a few weeks after receiving her inflammatory arthritis diagnosis, a difficult time with adjustments all round. When informing her employer they asked: “What should we expect, what do we need to know?” and Sophie didn’t have the answers herself. She feels lucky that she is in a specialist role, her skills are in demand, and her employer has been really accommodating.

She currently works a 25 hour, five-day week. It’s a struggle at times as inflamed feet can make walking hard going and painful hands can make keyboard work difficult. Sophie now mostly works from home and has set up her space with ergonomically suitable chair, desk, equipment and keyboard. This is really helpful as she points out: “Getting suitably dressed, made up and physically getting to an office can take all my energy before I’ve done a drop of work!”

Flexible working

Discussing flexible working, Sophie was keen to point out that many employers are missing out on hiring great people with great skills if they aren’t adaptable enough in their outlook on flexibility. She is pleased that things are moving in the right direction with the new Flexible Working Regulation changes which allow a day one right to request flexible working. However, she adds it still makes for a difficult situation when employers ask could you stay late, attend an extra meeting or help out beyond your job scope, and you physically don’t have the capacity to do so.

Sophie is not alone. There are over 10 million people live with arthritis in the UK. That equates to one in six people living with the pain it causes. As the retirement age has increased, that means more employees are having to juggle between their working lives, parenting, and managing their arthritis. It’s not just older workers that are impacted, 2.8 million people under 35 in the UK are living with a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition.

Sophie has found attending Arthritis Action online groups really positive as talking with others in similar situations helps her not to feel so isolated with her condition and exchanging tips and advice has been useful to help her manage her busy life.

*For further advice on managing life with arthritis visit the Arthritis Action website https://www.arthritisaction.org.uk/ or to join a group like Sophie has go to https://www.arthritisaction.org.uk/arthritis-action-groups/



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