How To Openly Have A Conversation With Your Employers About Your Chronic Illness.
We’re all busy. We’re all working hard to get ahead, and we all want to be recognised for the work that we do. But what happens when your chronic illness gets in the way? That’s why it's so important to talk openly with your employer about how they can help you succeed while maintaining your health.
Should you talk to your employers about your chronic illness?
This is a personal decision. You don't have to talk about your chronic illness with your employers if you don't want to or feel uncomfortable doing so. However, we recommend that you do this as it is an important part of your life and it can help them understand what living with a chronic illness means for the workplace, allowing them an opportunity to best support you.
We spoke to Kylie Harris, Head of People & Culture who recommends that you should speak to your employers about your chronic illness.
“In addition to legal requirements to make accommodations to support employees to be able to attend for and continue to work who are ill or injured.
“More importantly this is an opportunity for two–way dialogue with your employer to provide them with the information they need to support you. If you work in an organisation that has a HR/People & Culture function you may like to approach them for a confidential conversation to initially seek their advice. If you are speaking directly with your line manager, I would recommend providing as much information as you feel comfortable with and outlining any potential accommodations that you may be seeking.
“Give consideration to the nature of these accommodations eg. temporary, time-bound or information on medications and the impact these may have on your ability to perform your role.” Says Kylie.
Start an open conversation. Have a two-way dialogue.
If you are ready to have a conversation with your employers about your chronic illness, start by being honest and upfront about it. Tell them what it is and what impact it has on your work. Be prepared to explain how you can be most productive at work, especially if there are certain tasks that would require extra care or time for recovery.
Make sure that both parties understand each other's needs so that they can come up with a mutually beneficial solution.
Be open about your challenges
Whether you're dealing with an invisible illness or a visible one, it's important to be open about your challenges. If you're struggling at work because of something like chronic pain or fatigue, your employers need to know so they can help you find ways around those challenges.
“Early dialogue is key – if you know you will be needing extended time off or are experiencing acute symptoms, flagging this early allows your employer to make alternative arrangements. Where possible, staying regularly in touch with your employer during any absence is key. Give consideration to gradual return to work plans particularly if you have been absent for an extended work plan.
“The most successful support strategies that I have seen involve working closely with an employee and their medical practitioners, particularly when managing longer-term illnesses.” Says Kylie.
How your employers can support you
One of the most important things for your employer to understand is that you may need accommodations. You may need extra time off, or you might need to work from home occasionally. The key here is that these accommodations should be discussed openly with your employer so that everyone knows what to expect and can plan accordingly.
“Staying in regular contact (where appropriate) and asking questions about how they can best support you whilst you are away from work and around your return to work.
“Gaining clarity from you around how you would like your absence communicated to your teammates is also important. Gradual return to work plans can make a positive difference for someone who has been away from work for an extended period. For longer absences, it might be good to schedule a regular phone call or Team chat with your leader to provide them with an update and they can also keep you updated on any relevant work updates.” Says Kylie.
In the end, it's up to you whether or not you want to open up a conversation with your employers about your chronic illness. However, we hope that our tips and advice will help make this process easier for everyone involved.