If Your Job is Making You Ill, What Should You Do About It?

is your job making you ill?

For many of us, our jobs define our lives in a meaningful way, improving our overall well-being in the process. However, for many of us, it may also be the source of some eventful and negative occurrences, including work-related illness and poor mental health. Indeed, the very common problem of job-related stress can contribute to a host of health issues, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and a worsened immune system (making you more susceptible to colds and cases of flu).

If your job is making you ill, this might mean you need to not only take time away from the workplace but also revaluate (and in some cases, redesign) your career going forward. If this applies to you, you will be faced with the task of returning to work after time off due to work-related illness and be filled with many questions. How do I claim time off work? Am I covered for recovery? What are my options if returning to my current career is out of the question? If this is the case, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure that your return to work goes smoothly, whether it is in your current role or a completely new career landscape.

Becoming Sick And Mentally Unwell As A Result Of Work

Around 83% of American workers are dealing with work-related stress, with 18% admitting to going into work feeling mentally unwell, according to a study by Canada Life Group Insurance. Mental health stigma plays a role here since the invalidation of – and shame attached to – mental illness is what encourages people to think that anxiety and depression are not health conditions that deserve treatment and recovery. Becoming physically and mentally unwell as a result of work is woefully common, all around the world. In the UK, in 2016/17, for example, there were 526,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety, and depression, accounting for 12.5 million lost working days in that year.

Taking Time Off Work

Whether it is workplace burnout or a full-blown bout of depression or anxiety, you will have to decide whether or not to take time off work to recover. Work can impact our physical health, too, which might require taking some time off. Common work-related injuries include vision problems (as a result of poor lighting and computer screens) and musculoskeletal conditions like Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis (as a result of bad ergonomics and poorly fitted workstations). Then, of course, you have the prevalent phenomenon of work-related back pain. Unfortunately, there are many aspects of office life and office design that may contribute to an illness or health condition, making it necessary to take time off work to recover.

However, you will also need to ensure you are fit enough to return to work. Many workplace policies will include mental health cover including counselling or therapy sessions. In your time off, take advantage of these sessions with a therapist to try and assess what you feel returning to your place of work, and whether you will be able to do so comfortably.

Returning To Work But Making Changes

If you feel your old job is no longer conducive to your physical and mental health, speak to your manager or HR department who may then decide to offer you modifications in terms of your job role or working hours such as remote working or redeployment. Redeployment allows you the option of either remaining with the same employer and being moved to another role in the company or returning to a modified job role. Alternatively, they may decide to work with you to transfer you to another department in the company, with a training period. Keep in mind this can be a completely new department where very little of your current skills may be transferable. Therefore, you may need to undertake further training.

Switching Companies Or Industries

Of course, returning to the workplace does not always go smoothly and you may decide that your current work environment is too stressful or a wrong fit. In this case, start with saving up at least six months of expenses to provide financial security while you transition. Also, be sure to target specific industries and zoom in on the skills and certifications that are valued within. Updating your professional skills means you can enter new industries with higher bargaining power. Take a look at online learning platforms or, if you prefer a more hands-on approach, explore local community centres and universities that may be offering training workshops of all disciplines year-round. Finally, make use of your network you would have built up in your career thus far by gaining referrals and opportunities for introduction to people in the industry.

Recovering from a work-related illness can be a long and sometimes uncertain road. Sometimes the future of your career may seem hazy and call for some difficult career decisions on your part. Start by putting both your physical and mental health first and making use of the support available to you, both in and out of the workplace. Whether you end up returning to the same position or changing careers completely, these suggestions can help you navigate the tricky process of dealing with work-related health issues.

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