A diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome can come as a shock, and many people worry that it will cause problems at work. There are adaptations that can help people with fibromyalgia continue to work part- or full time.
Flexible Work Patterns
Some companies will allow employees to work from home and/or to work flexible hours – provided the hours are put in and the work is still completed on time. This can be pitched as a positive change – ‘If I can work from home I will be more productive and take less time off’ – but be prepared to be flexible if needs be, and be prepared to provide full reports of hours worked and work completed.
Shift work, especially where shifts change often, can affect sleep patterns in fibromyalgia syndrome, making people tired and stressed, and more likely to need time off.
Adaptations at Work
Changing desk chairs may help – make sure that the chair provides good support. Chairs without armrests are a good idea because they allow the chair to be the correct distance from the desk and the screen. Make sure the screen is at the right height and that the mouse and keyboard are in the right place to reduce tiredness – arm supports when typing and a wrist rest for the mouse mat and keyboard, might help. Telephone headsets, page-turners and book holders can help to reduce tiredness. Speech recognition software and speech controlled commands can help by reducing the amount of typing and mouse clicking needed.
Stress in the workplace can make the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome worse – try and avoid stressful situations where possible and try out relaxation techniques in moments of quiet. Find quiet places to rest during breaks if required.
Coping With Brain Fog
Some people with fibromyalgia syndrome suffer from ‘fibro fog’ or ‘brain fog’, making it hard to concentrate or remember things. Reducing distractions, getting instructions in writing or by email, and using comprehensive electronic to do lists with reminders, calendar software, contact management software or even something as simple as sticky notes can help with organising the day.
Taking Time Off
People with fibromyalgia syndrome don’t look ‘ill’ and don’t have an obviously disability – there’s no stick or wheelchair in sight. So it can be difficult for colleagues to understand about the disorder. It’s important to be open with managers and human resources staff about the condition – but they might not have heard about it and they might need some education. There are useful fact sheets available from doctors and specialists, or on the internet.
Being self-employed can be a useful option for someone with fibromyalgia syndrome, as the hours are completely flexible. It’s important to remember that being self-employed or running a business can be stressful, and this can trigger fibromyalgia syndrome.
People with fibromyalgia syndrome who are severely disabled by it and cannot work may be able to claim Disability Living Allowance. Some people find that this is a difficult process – organisations like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or the Fibromyalgia Association UK may be able to help.