work environment

Advocating for Your Illness in the Workplace

A word with health advocate, Samantha Reid

accomplished-adults-business-deal-1124065.jpg

The CCYAN fellows recently had a chat with IBD blogger and health advocate, Samantha Reid, to discuss her take on managing IBD in the workplace.

CCYAN Fellows Leah Clark, Erin Ard, and CCYAN founder,  Sneha Dave, video-chatting with Samantha Reid

CCYAN Fellows Leah Clark, Erin Ard, and CCYAN founder,
Sneha Dave, video-chatting with Samantha Reid

In February of 2010, Reid received a surprise that she never anticipated for during her birthday celebration. Three days after she turned 18, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and began her adult life with questions, concerns, and ultimately, an ambition to help others with her disease.

Reid has had her fair share of experience navigating her Crohn’s disease both in college and work. Majoring in english in college and working as a communications director at her previous job, Reid gained a solid foundation in writing, communication, and outreach. Now, her job allows her to focus on health and advocacy in the professional environment. Currently a digital director for the nonprofit organization, Patients for Affordable Drugs, she strives to change policy to lower the price of prescription drugs. Patients for Affordable Drugs is a patient organization, and Reid actually started there as a patient, so her peers understood her illness and created a safe environment for her to work in. Reid understands, however, how fortunate she is to be working in a flexible environment that meets her accommodations.

“I realize the fact that I’m even able to disclose my disability to my boss and coworkers is a privilege, and not everyone has that ability.”

Reid went on to encourage those with IBD to “play it by ear” and do what one feels comfortable when discussing their health with their boss and coworkers. Disclosure can not only be an important step in establishing a safe work environment, but it can also be used as a learning opportunity for your peers. “It allows me to be more open and it allows my supervisors to be more open as well; it creates a space for dialogue,'“ Reid explains.

Along with being the digital director, Reid also has a successful blog, Sicker Than Your Average, that she frequently shares experiences with IBD on. She explains how her presence on social media has helped her with IBD advocacy with her work. “For all of my adult working life, most of my coworkers have known about my illness by default. Whether they know because they follow me on social media and see my advocacy work or they know because I’ve had to postpone a meeting because I was sick, most of them know.” Reid expressed how important communication upfront can be when tackling IBD at work. Giving your boss and coworkers a heads-up when sensing a flare or preparing for many doctors appointments can not only give you a sense of ease with planning, but also can inform your peers about the severity on an issue. With invisible illnesses, it can be hard to truly express how important your health is when other can’t see your pain.

“When it comes to asking for accommodations, communication is key. Any workplace that would be retaliatory about me needing accommodations is NOT somewhere I would want to work.”

Sometimes IBD can feel as though it is getting in the way of performing your best at work.  It’s important to remember to do what feels comfortable to you and prioritize your health.

Sometimes IBD can feel as though it is getting in the way of performing your best at work.
It’s important to remember to do what feels comfortable to you and prioritize your health.

Communication is not only good for planning for the future, but it is good for setting up workplace accommodations. Accommodations are there to alleviate any hardships put in place because of your illness. These can include having your office desk closer to a bathroom or having options to work from home. “In my current position, I have an agreement with my boss that I can work from home every Friday. Because of my Crohn’s, I struggle with extreme fatigue, so even having one day a week where I don’t have to get dressed up and commute saves so much in terms of my energy levels,” Reid explains. She said it makes an enormous difference to her and she feels valued at a workplace that can accommodate to her needs.

One topic that Reid discussed when advocating for yourself in the workplace is the drive to, in a sense, redeem yourself to your coworkers when you are feeling healthy. It’s understandable to feel pressure at work to perform well, especially when you feel as though you are slacking because of your health. Missing work because of appointments, hospitalizations, and just sick days in general can cause one to feel inadequate in their job performance.

“For me, when I am feeling well, I probably overcompensate at work to prove myself. No one asks that of me, but I know it’s important to gain that goodwill while I can so that when I fall into a flare, people are more understanding.”

What’s important is to realize that it is okay to take time for yourself to get better. For many IBD patients, health is a number one priority, and people will be understanding of that. Showing your boss and your coworkers, when you are healthy, that you can do your job right and well is completely fine.

With all the advice Samantha Reid gave the CCYAN Fellows, it’s clear that she is a remarkable IBD advocate and presence in the community. Her constant dedication to IBD awareness is shown through her work and her attitude towards life. Her insight on what to do and what not to do when it comes to advocating for your illness is the workplace comes from years of experience. Making efforts to communicate effectively with your boss and peers, setting up boundaries and accommodations to meet your health’s needs, and putting your health first when necessary are all great ways to help those with IBD navigate their work with ease. We at CCYAN hope those in need can use this advice and pursue their career goals without feeling held back by their diseases.

The CCYAN Fellows would once again like to thank Samantha Reid for taking the time to discuss this topic, and they look forward to seeing more of what she does in the future with health advocacy.

IMG_0578.jpg

Samantha reid

Samantha Reid is an exceptional health advocate and role model in the IBD community. Her insight on advocating for yourself in the workplace not only those with IBD great advice, but also sheds light to important issues on workplace accommodations for all. For more information on Samantha Reid and places to connect with her, check out her social media and other platforms

Blog | Instagram | Twitter