It’s sad that I have to say this, but completely necessary… I’m not a medical professional, this post (and all others) are not medical advice. I’m simply about to share with you about my experiences managing diabetes at work.
I observed a diabetes chat where readers submitted questions for a doctor and two people from diabetes nonprofits to answer. Someone asked for advice on managing diabetes at work because it is harder for them to manage at work than at home. I know there are no dumb questions when you’re trying to learn, but I couldn’t suppress my reflexive thought of well that’s a dumb question, just do it like you do at home.
But after some self-scolding, I realized that for some it’s not so easy. To my relief one of the panelists said that management at work or school should be like management at home. Of course, I agree.
Making your health a priority can be tough for people, but the bottom line is that you need to do it. Your health and well being is important, both to you and your employer.
I manage my type 1 diabetes at work exactly how I do at home, in this manner:
- My diabetes bag is within arm’s reach
- I check my blood sugar regularly and I check my Dexcom frequently
- I eat when I need to
- I bring my own healthy food to work (as opposed to going out)
- I stay hydrated
- I count carbs
- I stop what I’m doing when diabetes must be handled
Sure there are extra hurdles to doing this at work instead of in the privacy of my own home, but you’ve got to do it.
Managing my diabetes at work has included:
- Changing my pod at my desk (my regular pod change time however is after work hours)
- Excusing myself from a phone call or meeting to handle a low blood sugar issue
- Bolusing at lunch meetings, although when it’s a lunch meeting with a client, I typically check my blood sugar prior to getting out of my car
- Taking shots (the insulin kind) in my office before I had a pump
- Wearing visible devices
- Staying at the office when not safe to drive home
- Eating when I need to. Bringing a snack into a meeting is completely acceptable!
If you work full time, you put in 40 or more hours a week at your workplace. For me, about 25% of my life is spent at work. If you don’t take care of yourself while you’re at work, you’re going to end up paying for it later.
Taking care of your diabetes is in no way unprofessional, if you need reasonable accommodations to do so, don’t hesitate to ask.
What have you learned about managing your health at work/school?
By the way… Today has been designated DBlog Check Day which is basically a way of inviting people in the diabetes online community to comment on every diabetes blog they read to let the bloggers know that we’re there. Even if it’s a simple “check” in the comments. I don’t have a lot of time to read blogs today, but I will be checking in so to speak on every diabetes blog that I read the rest of the week.
If you’d like to find posts, just look for the hashtag: #dblogcheck on your favorite social media platform… or all of them.
I agree that it management at work should be similar to management at home although it isn’t always the case. Mine is pretty consistently the same although sometimes the reactions of coworkers to things makes it more difficult and leaves me running for the corner to hide.
We do what we have to in life… And life with diabetes!
Great comparison lists. I must not be the only one who does this, but typically, I want to appear VERY much in control at work. I want to seem strong and at ease with the demands of diabetes. At home, where everyone at least semi-understands how tough the ‘betes can be, I am looser and more candid about it. Thank you for sharing this.
I also want to appear very in control at work, and since I work at a small company, everyone knows I have diabetes and I’m trying to breakdown the “you can’t eat that” stereotype. I know that I mentioned excusing myself from things to treat lows, but I usually just say, “Excuse me, I’ll be back in a minute.” and go do what I need to do.
There are days when managing my diabetes at work is a lot easier than at home. At work, I don’t have a full pantry to inhale if I go low so I’m less likely to over treat and deal with the rebound. At work, I also have more people around me. This self-imposed feeling of accountability has often times made my lunch choices at work meetings, much more responsible.
When I had a full-time office job, I found that the stress of that workplace made diabetes much much harder. I handled it like I handled it at home, but the stress made everything seem so much harder.
I agree with Karen, when I was working at an “office job” (I now work from home) I found it stressful and the diabetes management stressful too…I was always afraid to go low at work so I always stayed higher. I also quit that job about 2 years ago but before the last two years I was a LOT less open about my diabetes so I wasn’t one to do an infusion set change or anything at work. I’m a lot more open now so I would like to think I would handle an office job differently these days.
I think your message is exactly right, but it’s not always that easy. Especially for shift work, outdoor seasonal work, and retail, people sometimes lack the predictability, temperature-controlled supply storage, or time alone to deal with the things diabetes may throw at us. The best folks can do in those situations is discretely pop some glucose tabs to triage a low, but that’s about it. I’ve been in those situations before, and it can be challenging.
Very good points Rachel! 🙂 #dblogcheck
As with so much about diabetes, it depends. As Scott mentioned many work situations are not as accommodating as others and it often isn’t an option to leave such a situation for one that is more “diabetes friendly.” I’m very fortunate to be able to do whatever I need to do about my self-care at work but I really feel for those who feel constrained.
There’s a lot of great advice here. I handle my diabetes at work much in the same way you do, though I’m still working on backing out of a meeting or a call when I have a low. I’m a work in progress.
By the way, thanks for writing… I enjoy reading your blog!
Very interesting issue and points — thanks for adding this discussion, Rachel. I agree that it pretty much goes with the type of work and industry you’re in. If you’re always in an office and it’s a pretty set routine, I imagine it might actually be easier (stress aside) to manage because not much changes (except your D, of course!). But for those on their feet or always moving about, not so much… really, who knows. I like that list you have and think it’s great to see more online sharing going on about this simply because that just means it’s easier to find if/when someone needs it. Power of the DOC, once again!
Fortunately, my work environment is diabetes-friendly and I find it easier to manage than at home, because I have very few distractions. We take lunch together at the same time everyday and this routine helps a lot. I test at my desk and bolus wherever, because the pump allows me to be discreet. I’ve done site changes at work, I’ve got my supplies in my drawer and insulin in the work fridge. For a low I usually need 20-30 minutes to recover, it’s harder when I’m high and can’t focus. However, it’s not always easy, especially when I have to admit that I’m not in control and I need help.
Thanks for this post, I might need some tips about how to hide a pump in fitted business clothing 😀
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