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Chronic Conditions at Work

Author(s): Nabeeha Habeeb

When an individual has a chronic condition, finding a job can be exceedingly

challenging, but for people with chronic conditions that are working a full-time job, it can be

equally challenging, if not a nightmare. Chronic illnesses are defined as long-lasting and

relatively slowly progressing diseases. Any sort of condition that persists for more than three

months is referred to as a chronic condition. Chronic illnesses can occasionally be visible, like paraplegia, autism, or Down syndrome, or they can be invisible, like diabetes, arthritis, or

depression. Chronic illnesses are typically described by variable symptoms, with significant

fluctuation in the overall pattern of the illness.

There have been many research studies done to prove the negative impacts that

workplaces have on individuals with chronic conditions. Employers have a responsibility to

accommodate individuals with chronic conditions, however, there have been cases where

employees with chronic conditions have felt pressured by their employers to quit their jobs due to their condition. Employers' negative attitudes toward employees with chronic conditions have a substantial impact on those employees and, in some situations, may worsen their condition. This may necessitate them requesting more sick days than employees who do not have a chronic ailment. According to research, being absent from work due to illness has a negative financial impact that results in a loss of excitement and job satisfaction as well as decreased self-confidence, a gloomy mood, and feelings of loneliness (Wit, Wind, Hulshof, Frings-Dresen, 2018). These unfavourable outcomes indicate how important it is for employers to concentrate on improving the working circumstances for those who have chronic illnesses in order to reduce their time away from the workplace.

High-stress workplaces have a substantial effect on the emergence of chronic illnesses in

workplaces. Lack of health-promoting practices in the workplace, such as access to nutritious foods, opportunities for physical exercise, clinical preventative treatments, and much more, can lead to stressful working situations (Siegrist, Li, 2018). Having a lack of such services in the workplace has a significant impact on individuals’ minds and this will be reflected in their work performance. Moreover, studies have shown that employees who work for companies that adopt health-promoting management techniques experience significantly less stress at work than employees of other companies (Siegrist, Li, 2018). Additionally, the mental health of individuals with chronic conditions at workplaces have been declining which may further affect disease management. Disease management is described as a broad range of healthcare actions for people with illnesses that can be maintained through self-care. Disease management assists people in controlling their diseases and avoiding future implications, however when these individuals’ mental health is deteriorating to begin with, it can be challenging to want to restore one's own quality of life by eliminating the negative impacts of a chronic condition. Workplaces that create an uncomfortable and unwelcoming environment for individuals with chronic illnesses can and will only damage these people's mental health.

Working while suffering from a chronic disease is difficult in and of itself. However,

something that could make it slightly easier for these individuals would be to work on being

transparent, establishing a healthy lifestyle, asking for support from employers, and controlling their symptoms to the best of their ability. These factors in maintaining self-control at workplaces for individuals with chronic diseases can be very beneficial in helping occupational health experts build a plan. These individuals will gain significantly more from this in terms of establishing their self-control and promoting a long-term career (Bosma, 2018). The reason for this is that working on self-control at workplaces will help individuals with chronic conditions both mentally and physically and make them look at workplaces in a more positive light. They will thus take fewer sick days, which will enhance their overall work performance. Moreover, people's physical and mental health relies on the ability to participate in the workforce because it provides them with a purpose in life, encourages social interaction, and improves their quality of life. Employees with chronic illnesses may encounter difficulties like pain, exhaustion, physical restrictions, and stress, which can further lead to impaired work performance and cause decreased productivity, prolonged or recurrent sick days, or even loss of employment (Bosma, 2018).

Numerous studies have been conducted to demonstrate the detrimental effects that

workplaces have on people with chronic diseases. These disappointing results highlight the

importance for companies to focus on enhancing the working conditions for individuals suffering from chronic illnesses in order to decrease their time away from the office. Workplaces that make individuals with chronic illnesses feel unwanted and unpleasant will only have a negative impact on these individuals’ mental well-being. People with chronic conditions go through a tremendous amount of struggles on a daily basis, but having to experience those same struggles at their workplaces can be too overwhelming. This is why it is essential to help in reducing the impact that individuals with chronic conditions have at workplaces.

Practical Recommendations For Organizations

A recommendation that organizations can do to improve the health and safety of

individuals with chronic conditions at workplaces is establishing beneficial plans and policies

that include initiatives for inclusion, maintaining the health of people with chronic conditions,

and encouraging their return to workplaces (Silvaggi, et all, 2020). Having such advantageous plans and policies will guarantee that organizations stick to their policies and assist in improving the detrimental impacts that individuals with chronic conditions go through at workplaces. Additionally, policies serve as a guide for employees, lessen biased judgments, and safeguard businesses and employees from losing their jobs as a result of poor behaviour.

Another recommendation would be to educate managers and the organization about the

detrimental effects that people with chronic diseases experience on the job. This will assist in

allowing organizations to cultivate certain skills such as leadership, communication, team

building. Such skills are crucial for managers to maintain a proper connection with their

employees. Furthermore, having managers and the organization learn more about the negative effects of chronically ill people at workplaces will help them gain more empathy for them and as a result, be less judgmental towards them. Additionally, a suggestion for organizations would be to come up with adaptable ways to complete job duties so that workers may continue to do their jobs while taking their limitations into account (Silvaggi, et all, 2020). By providing employees that are chronically ill with flexible ways they can finish their job duties, the organization would be able to get the best performance out of all of their employees. This will further benefit the organization as a whole by boosting employee productivity, reducing the expense of training new hires, boosting employee

participation, and much more.

It is essential for organizations to follow these recommendations because people with

chronic illnesses have a legal right to reasonable accommodations, and enforcing this right

through policies and regulations will ensure that the organization keeps its principles. By helping employees with chronic conditions, the organization will benefit in a variety of ways and will have kept many of its valuable employees.


Bosma, A. R., Boot, C. R. L., De Maaker, M., Boeije, H. R., Schoonmade, L. J., Anema, J. R., & Schaafsma, F. G. (2019). Exploring self-control of workers with a chronic condition: A

qualitative synthesis. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 28(5),


Collins, J. J., Baase, C. M., Sharda, C. E., Ozminkowski, R. J., Nicholson, S., Billotti, G. M.,

Turpin, R. S., Olson, M., & Berger, M. L. (2005). The assessment of chronic health

conditions on work performance, absence, and total economic impact for employers.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 47(6), 547–557.

de Wit, M., Wind, H., Hulshof, C. T., & Frings-Dresen, M. H. (2018). Person-related factors

associated with work participation in employees with Health Problems: A Systematic

Review. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 91(5),


Siegrist, J., & Li, J. (2018). Work stress and the development of chronic diseases. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(3), 536.

Silvaggi, F., Eigenmann, M., Scaratti, C., Guastafierro, E., Toppo, C., Lindstrom, J., Rantala, E., Imaz-Iglesia, I., Barnfield, A., Maassen, A., & Leonardi, M. (2020). Employment and

chronic diseases: Suggested actions for the implementation of inclusive policies for the

participation of people with chronic diseases in the labour market. International Journal

of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(3), 820.

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