How to Handle Arthritis on the Job

Pain and fatigue can make it difficult to get your job done. But in a supportive work environment, you may be able to change the nature of your job without drastically changing your life.

More than 75 percent of working men and women with osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis experience job-related changes due to arthritis, according to the results of a Canadian study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. Some are unable to take on extra work, while others become less productive or have more absences from the job. These changes often lead to other job transitions, such as reducing the number of hours worked, changing jobs, or ceasing to work altogether.

The researchers found that the level of support these men and women receive when they  confide in their coworkers and supervisors, and explain that arthritis is limiting their ability to do their jobs, plays a significant role in the number and significance of job transitions. With the help and support of coworkers, there are fewer work disruptions and less need to reduce working hours. When men and women with arthritis know they have the support of their supervisors, they feel less stress at their jobs.

If you need your job because you need the benefits that come with it, cutting back on your hours may not be the answer. Most part-time jobs don't come with benefits and though you may work enough hours to warrant pro-rated benefits, they may not be enough. Instead, you might want to consider asking for an alternative or more flexible schedule, and perhaps one that allows you to do some of your work from home. Another consideration might be to switch jobs within the same company and move into a position that isn't as physically taxing.

If you were asking for a raise, you would probably prepare some sort of presentation to justify the request by reminding your supervisor of some of the unique personal and professional qualities you bring to the position and listing some of the more important contributions you make to the company as a whole. A similar, well thought-out presentation can help your supervisor recognize that allowing you to change your schedule, modify your job, use an assistant, or spend time working from home, will ensure your continued dedication as a valued employee and will work smoothly for everyone involved.

While you're at work, the Arthritis Foundation has several recommendations for balancing the demands of your job and the management of your condition:

  • Pace yourself to conserve energy.
  • Practice exercises that will strengthen your joints for the job you have to do.
  • Avoid activities that put stress on your joints, such as lifting, carrying, reaching or holding heavy items.
  • Avoid repetitive activities or any activity that keeps you sitting or standing in one position for too long.



Arthritis Foundation: Workplace

Gignac, MA ete al. "Arthritis-related work transitions: a prospective analysis of reported productivity loss, work changes and leaving the labor force." Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2008 Dec 15;59(12):1805-13. Web.

Gignac, MA and Cao X. "Should I tell my employer and coworkers I have arthritis?" A Longitudinal examination of self-disclosure in the workplace." Arthritis and Rheumatism 2009 Dec 15;61(12):1753-61. Web.