In recognition of World Diabetes Day, we take a closer look at managing diabetes in the workplace.
A recent study on global trends in diabetes complications revealed large increases in diabetes prevalence in almost all regions of the world. In the United States alone, prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is projected to increase by 54% between 2015 and 2030, along with annual diabetes-related deaths climbing by 38%. While managing diabetes has always been a top concern of world health officials, it really boils down to the efforts of the individual. Considering how modern living sees us spending most of our time in a work environment, how can we manage the risks and effects of diabetes in the workplace?
Fortune Favours the Proactive
There are many health complications associated with diabetes: heart disease and stroke, eye damage, skin and mouth conditions, kidney damage and foot problems to name a few. When it comes to functioning at work, one of the main concerns of diabetics is the onset of hypoglycemia, a condition characterised by one’s blood sugar falling below a certain level. This can cause a person to feel faint, weak, or even lose consciousness altogether. The danger inherent in this is painfully obvious.
Thankfully, there are various preventive measures employees can take to keep themselves safe and their families free from worry:
Plan in advance
Getting enough sleep, planning your meals, and staying hydrated are can make a significant difference to your safety. They also happen to be things that can be scheduled and defined on your end. Keeping these areas of your life secure will allow your to have more control over your condition.
Know your rights
Diabetics are protected under national health policies to ensure that their ability to work safely is not compromised, nor their condition discriminated against. Labour laws do vary across countries, so do your due diligence in finding out what’s what. If it is within your rights to make a request for a small change in work arrangements, don’t hesitate to speak up about it!
Protect against danger
Office parties are fun, but they often involve sweet treats and alcohol – not exactly good for diabetics. If you do decide to indulge, be sure to keep your portions on the small side. Keeping your desk stocked with healthy, blood-sugar friendly snacks will ward off the temptation of raiding the office pantry. As another precautionary measure, remember to keep a small supply of your medication handy in case of emergencies.
Make movement a priority
Spending all day seated at your desk is not good for your resting blood sugar levels, so set a timer to go off every 15-30 minutes as a reminder for you to move. Take a short walk down the hall or even do a couple of stretches in your area. During your lunch break, try to take the stairs whenever possible to get your heart rate up. A standing or treadmill desk is another great alternative to consider.
Keep your workplace informed
It’s important that your employer is aware of your diagnosis so they have the opportunity to be understanding of your medical situation. Take the time to explain to them what diabetes is and how it affects everyday life – most people don’t even know what having diabetes entails other than having to worry about blood sugar levels. Letting your work buddies or direct supervisor in on your condition and medical protocols also makes it easier for them to keep an eye out for you.
Avoid taking jobs that are unsuitable for your condition, such as shift work or high-stress positions. Telecommuting or self-employment may be more suitable for individuals who exhibit more severe symptoms.
Keep Your Loved Ones in the Loop
Outside of work, family also plays an important role in diabetes management. A family unit that offers a strong support system can help with sustainability when it comes to certain aspects of diabetes management, such as nutrition, exercise and mental health.
Sharing a life with a diabetic will take some getting used to, so getting your loved ones on board needs to be a gradual process. Building this upon a foundation of open and honest communication is the best way to create a healthy relationship whereby both parties will be able to benefit mutually. To start:
Educate on the condition
Your family may need help understanding what diabetes entails, like the need for a different eating schedule or nutrition plan. Dropping some quick facts about diabetes and the relevant medications enables them to identify red flags and react accordingly.
Define boundaries for support
While help is always welcome, there are times when family members can become TOO involved in the management process. Acknowledge that their intentions stem from a good place, but be firm in drawing the line to prevent micro-management.
Ask for help when needed
It is understandable how those with a serious medical condition tend to view themselves as a burden to others. Remember, you are not alone and your family will do whatever they can to help you find your own pace. For this to work, however, you need to put aside your pride and ask for help when you need it.
Final Thoughts on Diabetes in the Workplace
It’s important to remember that despite the seriousness of the condition, diabetics can still go on to lead relatively normal lives through the adoption of healthier lifestyle habits. Staying safe in the workplace is a matter of identifying the risk factors and addressing them in advance. Being prepared not only safeguards your productivity, but your happiness as well!
To find out more about how our wellness programs can help your organisation establish preventative health measures, get in touch.