6 Ways to Cope with IBD at Work


The alarm rings — ding ding. After three attempts to hit the snooze button, you angrily throw off the covers.


We all face work days when we feel unmotivated, fatigued, or overwhelmed. Off days happen to everyone. When you add extra symptoms and struggles associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), coping with the office can feel near impossible.


But if you plan ahead and express your needs to the appropriate colleagues, you can succeed at your job while limiting IBD-related restrictions. Here are six ways to cope with IBD at work.




Communicate Your Condition


Communicate your condition with the people you feel comfortable with. This will help them understand your needs and restrictions so they can support your work-related requirements.


Share what IBD is, how the disease affects you, how your symptoms change overtime, and how they may impact your work performance.


Communicating can help others understand when you look fine but feel like hell and need to take it easy for the day. Or when you have to schedule a doctor’s appointment during an inconvenient work time. It can also help them understand if you have to bolt out of a meeting to make it to the bathroom.



Understand Your Working Needs and Rights


Just because your condition isn’t always visible, doesn’t mean that you don’t have rights at work. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, IBD is a condition that affects everyone differently and for some people it can be considered disabling.


Reasonable accommodations your work can provide include:

-Moving your desk so it’s near a bathroom
-Changing your schedule
-Reassigning you to a different role
-Allowing remote flexibility


Keep in mind that you may not always get the accommodation that you ask for. But it is considered to be a reasonable request if it does not impose a hardship on the employer or company. This includes something that would be extremely costly, requires major changes to the workplace, or impacts the operation of the business.



Make a Request


When you make your request for reasonable accommodation, you can do so via a written request, email, or verbal communication. However, if you’re making a formal request, it’s best to have it in writing as proof. You can contact your Human Resources department or manager for guidelines specific to your company.


If you’re personal about your condition, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to self disclose the type of disease you have. For instance, if you’re going on an interview for a new job, you don’t have to tell them that you have IBD. But they are allowed to ask if you’re physically able to complete the essential functions of the job.



Be Prepared


Living with IBD, makes it so you have to be ready for any symptoms, at any time. It’s important to be prepared when you are away from the comforts of your own home, such when you travel or spend the day in the office.


Accidents happen, especially when you’re in a stressful environment. Preparing a simple emergency pack to keep at work can help in a messy situation.


Pack a discreet bag that can help if you didn’t make it to the restroom in time. Add a change of underwear and clothes, plastic bag, wipes, hand sanitizer, and most importantly, any prescription or over-the-counter medications such as antidiarrheals or pain reducers. If you have an ostomy, you may want to pack extra supplies for it.


If you work in an open working space, you can always ask your Human Resources department if it would be possible to store your bag somewhere. If you travel for work, bring the bag with you and also consider a medical bracelet or RADAR Key which unlocks some public toilets.


Keep food and water at your desk in case you don’t have time to get a proper lunch. It’s not a safe bet to count on vending machines or fast food.



Fight Fatigue


Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of IBD. It can be a result of lack of nutrition or hydration, surgery, medications, pain, anemia, or poor sleep.


If you experience severe fatigue at work, communicate this to your supervisor and Human Resources department. They may be open to you taking your break in your car or conference room for a quick power nap. Or they could work with you to find a different schedule.


A Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology study showed that poor sleep increased inflammation the risk for flare-ups in people who have IBD. Help manage your fatigue with exercise and good sleeping habits.



Practice Stress Management


It’s difficult to avoid stress altogether and in fact, some stress can be helpful when it comes to motivation. But with IBD, stress may trigger symptoms.


You can start by implementing some stress management techniques. Some workplace appropriate techniques include breathing exercises, going for a walk, listening to podcasts or mindful meditations which promote relaxation, and even doing some quick stretches.


If stress at work is overwhelming to the point of making you sick, you may want to consider a medical leave or look for a new job.




Nori Health is a digital coach who is there to support you in discovering and changing the lifestyle factors that impact your well being. She’s there for you 24/7 to listen to what you’re going through and provide tips to help you improve your life. She can help you find the foundation you need.


This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietitian and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.