Working with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia-Work-and-Disability

Many people with fibromyalgia are able to continue working either full or part time. Others find that the chronic pain and fatigue are so severe, continuing to work is impossible. When that happens, it may be necessary to consider applying for disability.

Whether you’re struggling to continue working or trying to navigate the disability maze, the following sections offer guidance and tips to help you along your journey.

 

Working with Fibromyalgia

It is estimated that 60% of people with fibromyalgia work full-time jobs. While working when you have FM is not easy, it does offer some important benefits if you’re able to do it. In addition to the obvious financial benefits, working can contribute to feelings of self-worth, provide opportunities for social interaction, offer intellectual challenges and even help distract your mind from your illness for periods of time as you focus on your job tasks.

In most cases, there are modifications that can be made to your job, schedule or workspace that can improve your ability to continue working and increase your productivity. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most employers are obligated to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.

The following list of possible modifications for people with FM is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network. You can use this list when discussing suggested modifications with your employer.

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Concentration Issues:

  • Provide written job instructions when possible
  • Prioritize job assignments & provide more structure
  • Allow flexible work hours & allow a self-pace workload
  • Allow periodic rest periods to reorient
  • Provide memory aids, such as schedulers or organizers
  • Minimize distractions
  • Reduce job stress

Fine Motor Impairment:

  • Implement ergonomic workstation design
  • Provide alternative computer access
  • Provide alternative telephone access
  • Provide arm supports
  • Provide writing & grip aids
  • Provide a page turner & a book holder
  • Provide a note taker

Gross Motor Impairment:

  • Modify the work-site to make it accessible
  • Provide parking close to the work-site
  • Provide an accessible entrance
  • Install automatic door openers
  • Move workstation close to other work areas, office equipment, & break rooms

Temperature Sensitivity:

  • Modify work-site temperature & maintain the ventilation system
  • Modify dress code
  • Use fan/air-conditioner or heater at the workstation & redirect vents
  • Allow flexible scheduling & work from home during extremely hot or cold weather
  • Provide an office with separate temperature control

Skin Sensitivity:

  • Avoid infectious agents & chemicals
  • Provide protective clothing
Fatigue/Weakness:

  • Reduce or eliminate physical exertion & workplace stress
  • Schedule periodic rest breaks away from the workstation
  • Allow a flexible work schedule & flexible use of leave time
  • Allow work from home
  • Implement ergonomic workstation design

Depression & Anxiety:

  • Reduce distractions in work environment
  • Provide to-do lists & written instructions
  • Remind employee of important deadlines & meetings
  • Allow time off for counseling
  • Provide clear expectations of responsibilities & consequences
  • Provide sensitivity training to co-workers
  • Allow breaks to use stress management techniques
  • Develop strategies to deal with work problems before they arise
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors & others for support
  • Provide information on counseling & employee assistance programs

Sleep Disorder:

  • Allow flexible work hours & frequent breaks
  • Allow work from home

Migraine Headaches:

  • Provide task lighting
  • Eliminate fluorescent lighting
  • Use computer monitor glare guards
  • Reduce noise with sound absorbent baffles/partitions, environmental sound machines, & headsets
  • Provide alternate work space to reduce visual & auditory distractions
  • Implement a “fragrance-free” workplace policy
  • Provide air purification devices
  • Allow flexible work hours & work from home
  • Allow periodic rest breaks

For answers to the most frequently asked questions about your rights under the ADA, read: Working with Fibromyalgia or ME/CFS – Your Rights Under the ADA


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