How to Manage Your IBD at Work
Written by Mandy Morgan
Not too long ago, I was in a virtual meeting at work. About twenty minutes into the meeting, when the conversation really got rolling, the urgency hit me.
The conversation was progressing quickly, and I had people asking for my opinion right and left. But, I needed the bathroom and I needed it immediately. So, I put myself on mute, and ran out of the meeting room to the bathroom. When I returned to the virtual meeting, I apologized and said that I had to step out. Thankfully, my team caught me up, and we finished the meeting on a high note. Phew!
Telling Your Employer
I can’t stress how important it is to disclose your IBD to your employer. Try to be upfront and honest with your bosses about IBD. Give them a summary of IBD and let them know about some of the symptoms you experience. It’s also important to let them know that despite your symptoms, you can still get the job done. After you tell your employer, ask if they have any questions. Establishing an open door policy can make a huge difference with your boss. This way, they’re aware of what you’re going through, and understand that you might have to get up during a meeting.
I strongly recommend making all the accommodation requests you need. In letting your employer know about your IBD, you might ask for a desk that’s close to the bathroom. You might also need to request a different schedule if mornings are tough for you, or if you find yourself fatigued in the afternoon. Employers are typically open to different work hours, so long as you put in the same amount of hours as your coworkers. You might also need to request additional time off for colonoscopies or other procedures. Make sure that you request the accommodations you need to be successful, and know your rights in the workplace.
Talking to Coworkers
It can definitely be unnerving to talk to your coworkers about your IBD. But it can be comforting to tell them about it too. This way you don’t have to hide your symptoms, or make excuses for dietary restrictions at a work lunch. I’m pretty open about my diagnosis, so nearly all of my coworkers know I have ulcerative colitis. In talking to them about UC, I usually find that they either know someone with IBD, or are familiar with the disease. They understand why I can’t partake in taco Tuesday (I can’t eat corn), or why I might need to unexpectedly dart out of a meeting. By being open, my coworkers know what to expect from me, and know that I’m not being rude or anti-social.
It’s always worth disclosing your IBD at work. Being open and honest with your boss and coworkers can not only make you more comfortable on the job, but enhance the quality of your relationships at work, which makes everything a little less stressful. Don’t be afraid to request for the accommodations that you need, and work with your employer, so that you both get the very best out of your experience.
About Mandy Morgan
Mandy is a St. Louis, Missouri native and takes pride in her Midwestern roots. Mandy was officially diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2013. Afterward, she became hungry for a sense of community and understanding. She connected to Girls With Guts, and started blogging for the organization. Fast-forward a few years, and Mandy now serves on the Board of Directors. Follow Mandy on Instagram and Facebook .
Girls With Guts’ mission is to empower women with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease & ulcerative colitis) and ostomies to share their stories of confidence and to promote self-esteem. Each year, Girls With Guts offers a unique in-person retreat experience for their sisterhood, and is excited to offer a virtual summit this year discussing mental health and IBD. Learn more at www.girlswithguts.org
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.