COPD can strike any individual at any age — which is why living with this incurable condition can be such a burden. If you’re still years away from retirement, getting diagnosed with COPD seriously impacts your life. However, you can’t stop working; you still have bills to pay and responsibilities to meet.
Working with COPD, though difficult, can be done if you take care of yourself and make adjustments to improve your health. Here are a few tips to help you manage your COPD while you’re at work.
1. Eliminate Excess Walking
When you’re living with COPD, Imogen reports that fatigue and weakness will be common symptoms. People with COPD get tired easily, sometimes from the simplest actions like walking around the office. And you’ll simply need to adapt your work environment and daily activity to fit how you’re feeling.
Try to limit your physical activity at work as much as you can, especially right after you’ve first been diagnosed. To do this, try to get a parking space that is close to the entrance of your building. In addition, make your work station close to the door, the bathroom, and the break room if possible. If needed, you can ask your employer for other adjustments.
2. Consider Using a Mobility Scooter
If you tend to have a job where you need to walk from office to office or building to building frequently during the day, a mobility scooter might beneficial to you. These scooters can be used indoors and outdoors, and they offer smooth, quiet riding on most surfaces. And with a mobility scooter, you won’t have to expend much energy, keeping your breathing difficulties to a minimum no matter what you’re doing.
At work, mobility scooters can fit right in. Covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all workplaces must allow mobility scooters into the building. Those with disabilities have the right to choose any device they need for their health — meaning you can discuss your needs with your employer to be sure they’re accommodated.
3. Make Sure Your Environment is Clean
As Inogen writes, things like smoke, dust, gases, and fumes can exacerbate COPD, and they can be dangerous for employees who live with COPD and who are perfectly healthy. Air quality is especially important for COPD sufferers, as pollutants, chemicals, and even strong scents in your environment can lead to coughing and difficulty breathing. So, you’ll want to make sure that your work environment is free of these air pollutants.
If you’re bothered by your surroundings at work, bring your issues up with your co-workers or employer. You can ask others to avoid wearing strong perfumes and colognes, or let your employer know if you’re having problems with the office air quality. It’s important to let your employer know these details, as making small changes can improve the air quality for every employee.
4. Alert Your Employer to Doctor’s Appointments
Having COPD means that you’ll need to keep in touch with your doctors more often. You might need to arrange appointments during the workday, take time off to regain your health or have procedures performed, or simply check in with your doctor regularly. While this is tricky for anyone with a traditional 9 to 5 job, you should let your employer know that you have unique health needs.
Make sure to stay on top of your schedule and alert your employer whenever you need to take time off from work. Your employer will likely work with you, as long as you let them know about any medical appointments, procedures, and needs in advance. Many companies will allow you to take time off for medical reasons even if you are out of sick days and other benefits.
5. Try Working From Home or Adjusting Your Schedule
Many employers can be flexible with employees who are suffering from COPD. See if your employer or company will allow you to come in earlier or later if your health is better at different times of the day, or if you can work a shorter workday to accommodate your symptoms and health needs. There are plenty of protections in place for those with serious chronic health conditions, and you may find the perfect solution to your schedule by bringing up a shorter or altered work schedule.
If you’re struggling every day at work, you may need to alter your work environment and schedule completely by getting out of the office and working in an environment that suits your needs: your home. Some employers will allow you to work from home for at least a few days a week. In many ways, this actually eliminates expenses for your employer, and you’re able to feel more comfortable and take care of your health as needed, making working from home a win-win situation.
Talk with your employer to see what they can accommodate. Whether you’re able to shorten your workdays or work at home, there’s likely a great compromise that’ll keep you working and earning money without sacrificing your health or your comfort.
6. Consider Slowly Learning to Adapt at Work
When you are initially diagnosed with COPD, you may not be able to go right out and start exercising at the gym, but you can learn how to move better and become active even when you have this disease. With your doctor’s advice and recommendations, you can try a number of different treatments and therapies that improve your abilities, you may be able to move more, breathe easier, and continue tackling more challenges both at work and at home.
As you continue to make activity and movement a part of your daily life, it’ll become increasingly easier on your lungs and heart. Slowly, you will find the workplace isn’t something to be feared when you suffer from COPD.