Do you have a chronic disease? If so, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control define chronic diseases as those that limit the activities of daily living or require ongoing medical attention, and last at least a year or more. When defined that way, it’s not surprising that six in 10 American adults have at least one chronic condition, and four out of 10 live with two or more. If you want to learn more about how to manage your chronic disease at work, or if you work with people with chronic diseases and want to help, read on.
Chronic diseases include conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. These conditions are not only prevalent but are primary causes of disability and death. They also contribute significantly to the 3.8 trillion dollars that Americans spend on health care every year. Many chronic diseases are caused by lifestyle behaviors that could be changed or modified, including smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke; following a diet that contains a lot of saturated fat and salt and few vegetables and fruits; excessive alcohol consumption; and a lack of physical activity.
These chronic conditions also affect the productivity of people at work; according to the CDC, the lost productivity resulting from the seven most prevalent conditions equals a staggering 3.7 trillion dollars. Those conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Employers can help employees with chronic diseases in a number of ways, such as by promoting healthy activities at work. These activities may include health assessments and screenings; newsletters and other educational information about healthy lifestyles; reduced-rate gym memberships or an on-site gym; smoking cessation programs; standing desks; healthy snacks in break rooms and vending machines; and healthy, catered meals to employees. These kinds of activities could help reduce health care costs while enhancing employee health and increasing productivity; they not only help staff who already have chronic conditions but can also help prevent their development in others.
If you are an employee with a chronic health condition, recognize that your symptoms may affect you at work. Determine how you can address them, whether that means taking more frequent breaks, working from home some of the time or managing your symptoms. Taking care of your overall health is essential. Consider whether you want to disclose your condition to your supervisor; while this step is not required, it may be beneficial.
If you know that your condition will affect your ability to work, you should let your boss know ahead of time. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, companies are required to give reasonable accommodations when needed, whether that includes support from your company, scheduling flexibilities or additional instructions on assignments. The accompanying resource details more about this.