Having Diabetes, Going to Work
you have a job and you have diabetes, there can be challenges, for sure. You
definitely have to be able to plan ahead for certain things, like testing your
blood sugar and having snacks when you need them. You also need to be able to
gauge which co-workers you should tell about your diabetes, and which ones you
don’t need to tell at all.
some cases, it’s also necessary to be a sort of educator about diabetes,
explaining to your boss and others you work with how it affects your work (if at
all), what to do if there’s an emergency, etc. And you also need to be able to
educate yourself about your rights on the job, just in case anybody resists
letting you have the time and space you need to take care of yourself.
all those hats takes discipline and planning. But it’s something people with
diabetes do every day.
for your own needs
need to carve out time for
your blood sugar
can take some planning ahead. If you work far away from where you keep your
personal belongings, you may need to make arrangements to have your snacks and
testing supplies somewhere nearby. If your work environment is a little hectic
and people eat lunch on the fly, and sometimes don’t even take lunch, you
still have to take the time you need to eat meals, even if you’re working on a
people at work
the people you work with need to know you have diabetes? A lot of that is up to
you. If you have trusting relationships with them, you may want to tell them,
especially if low blood sugar happens to you fairly frequently. It’s good for
others to know what the signs of low blood sugar are, and what they can do to
help you. Having a few people in your work environment who know about this kind
of thing can be helpful for you.
most cases, letting people you work with know what you’re up to creates a
trusting atmosphere. It can be strange to have your co-worker disappear
regularly if you have no idea what the reason is. Most people want the best for
their friends and colleagues, and chances are good that they wouldn’t have a
problem with your need to take breaks.
the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable telling people, that’s up to
you. Some people are discriminatory about illness, especially an illness they
don’t understand. If you want to keep your diabetes to yourself, that’s your
nice if you can take care of yourself at work without having supervisors or
co-workers second-guessing your right or your need to do so. Sometimes, it’s a
little more complex than that. It could be that your supervisor knows nothing
about diabetes. And people with diabetes often look perfectly healthy, which can
be misleading for those who don’t know what it takes to keep your condition
under control. Or it could be that you have a co-worker or two who are jealous
of your time away from work for testing blood sugar or grabbing a snack.
may need to get official with these people, and explain to them what your rights
are. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are allowed to ask for
“reasonable accommodations” to take care of your diabetes, and employers are
required to grant those accommodations. Testing blood sugar, eating at regular
times and taking time off for doctor’s appointments fall in the range of what
is reasonable. Additionally, your boss is not allowed to tell anybody
else—without your permission—why you need these scheduled breaks.
remember—not everybody knows what diabetes is. It’s possible that some of
the people you work with have only a vague notion. They may think that all you
have to do is avoid eating dessert. Sometimes, all it takes is a little
explaining on your part, and that can be better than talking about laws and your
within your company’s policies
possible—and important—to look out for your own needs while still going
along with the policies of your company. For example:
sure to give as much notice as you’re requested to for doctor’s
to schedule appointments when it’s most convenient for your co-workers.
sure you don’t disappear at inconvenient times to test your blood sugar or
to get a snack.
other words, it’s best to blend into your work day as much as possible, not
making a fuss about the things you have to do to take care of yourself. That
way, you’ll be more likely to earn respect from co-workers and supervisors.
And they’ll be more likely to be easy when you absolutely need time away.
Diabetes Forecast, August 2003; Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission; The National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Disorders.