If you've been diagnosed with RA, you may find that commuting to a traditional 9-to-5 job each day is not sustainable. In fact, studies have shown that individuals with RA are more likely to miss work as a result of their condition. While not always possible, technology has created more opportunities for a modified work schedule or to work from home.
Take it from Michael H., a criminal law attorney who has been living with RA for 19 years. When he found that job stress contributed to his RA flares, he discovered ways to maintain his demanding job without sacrificing his health.
"Working after my RA diagnosis was a bigger challenge than I anticipated. Something as simple as buttoning my shirt could be a long process, and I've had to go to court on crutches, but my clients depend on me, so I've created ways to make it more manageable. When I'm not in court or taking depositions, I can take my shoes off and walk around the office in padded bedroom slippers to ease my swollen feet. When I have flare-ups in my feet, I soak them in a bucket of ice water or warm water, whichever eases my pain at the office."
This post is about exploring potential changes to your work
- Consider requesting a modified work schedule or working remotely: If your job does not require your physical presence, consider asking if you can forgo the daily commute or create a more comfortable work environment. Remember to explain how this move can benefit your employer. It might be helpful to mention that working from the comfort of your home can mean increased productivity and less sick/mental health days since you won't overexert yourself. You could also ask your manager if receiving a second laptop is possible so you don't have to carry it back and forth.
- Michael's experience: "Not everyone has a job where they can work from home – as a lawyer, I have to show up to court at least 3 days a week. However, I was surprised by how understanding my employer was about letting me work from home on days when I didn't need to be in court or meet with clients face-to-face. It's helped a lot to be able to stay home on days that I've had particularly bad RA flares."
- Flex-hours: If your job isn't dependent on a 9-to-5 schedule, look into whether you can modify your hours. Maybe you can still work full-time, taking longer breaks throughout the day, as needed. If you have the ability you can also consider reducing your hours to allow for a less demanding schedule.
"I was surprised by how understanding my employer was about letting me work from home on days when I didn't need to be in court or meet with clients face-to-face."
-Michael H., Attorney Living with RA
- Comfort in the workplace: If you work in an office, see if you can rearrange your office equipment to make it more ergonomically suited – consider the height of your chair and computer, and whether you might need a new mouse or keyboard. If you are on your feet all day, consider whether the shoes you are wearing provide adequate support.
- Michael's experience: "When I'm in the office or the courthouse, it's been really important to find ways to make my office-setting more comfortable. HR agreed to order me a more supportive chair and keyboard support so that it didn't have to come out of my pocket. When my hands and fingers flare-up making it difficult for me to write with a pen or type at my keyboard, both essential tasks for a practicing attorney, my law firm equipped my office with a sophisticated dictation machine to lessen my pain. Seeing how my work productivity increased, the firm purchased the same dictation system for all the lawyers in the firm. I wouldn't have known that was an option unless I asked."
Potential work-from-home jobs
If you're looking to gain further independence, there may be some "virtual" jobs that can be handled from home and are great options for some people. Always keep in mind any tax obligations that you may incur when self-employed.
- Call-center employee: As a home-based agent, you'll field incoming calls for a variety of businesses to help respond to routine service inquiries or even sell products. You'll receive a script on how to answer potential questions and redirect calls to other agents, as needed. Potential earnings: $7- $15 / hour
- Content writer: Companies often don't have the staff to create content for their websites, so they outsource jobs to freelancers. Potential earnings: $14-$20 / hour; individual rates may vary
- Virtual assistant: Provide general assistance, including administrative help, scheduling, bookkeeping and even event planning, from your home office. Potential earnings: $10 - $30 / hour
- Online reseller: Earn money by selling items online on behalf of others who are too busy to do it themselves. Potential earnings: $5 - $25 per item or 20 to 40 percent of total sale
- Document or recording translator: If you're multilingual, consider helping businesses expand globally by participating in live conversations (via teleconference or Skype), or translating documents and recordings. There's plenty of work in Spanish, French and Chinese, and even greater demand for more obscure languages. Potential earnings: $10 - $50 / hour
If you're interested in looking into these opportunities further, do some research online to find something that may be right for you. Of course, always exercise caution when visiting websites that offer ways to supplement income. Again, I recommend that you always verify information through your own research.