What to Do When your Health Affects your Work

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Most of us rely on our jobs for income. But it’s also common that we attach pride, purpose and belonging to our jobs, too. What happens if health concerns interfere with our working lives? Whether it’s stress, injury, disability, or long-term illness, there are things you and your employer can do to ensure you thrive in your career.


It’s normal to experience stress now and then. Whether it’s a tight deadline, a big presentation, or an irritating coworker, work can be tense. But what if you’re finding that you’re stressed almost all the time? Excessive stress can cause burnout, health complications, and severely impact on your quality of life. You might find that you struggle to sleep, or that your concentration is affected. Stress could also cause apathy and disinterest in your job, and it can also have dire consequences for your performance at work.

If you find that you’re experiencing high levels of stress at work, it’s essential you seek help. Let your employer know that things have become overwhelming and consider if you can delegate tasks. You might need some help managing your schedule, or finding a healthy distance between work and home life. Depending on the size of your workplace, there may be an official counsellor you could speak with at work. Exercise, nutrition, and positive support networks are also vital in combatting stress. If you feel you’re heading for burnout, it’s vital you take a holiday or discuss taking sick leave. Your health has to come first.


If you’ve had an accident, a fall, or otherwise been injured, this can cause all kinds of problems at work. You might have to take time off to recover. Once your doctor says it’s alright to return to work, your employer will probably do a risk assessment to make sure that you can do your job safely. If your mobility has been affected, the assessment should also identify areas like how you will evacuate in the event of an emergency.

You might not be able to fulfil your regular duties, for example, if your hand is injured, you might be unable to type. You might need some short-term adjustments to help you do your job. These could include altering your workstation or reallocating some tasks to a coworker. You might also be offered flexible working hours, or the option to work from home if this is relevant.

Be careful not to push yourself too hard after an injury, as this could affect your recovery. Follow your doctor’s advice. If you are concerned that your job is not enabling you to recover properly, you could speak to HR or return to your doctor.

Disability and Long-term health conditions

Whether you have a chronic health condition or are disabled, this can impact your working life. The type of work that you do, as well as how understanding your employer is, can make a huge difference. You may be entitled to support to help you navigate this.

For example, If you live in the UK, you have additional rights on top of the standard employee rights you’re entitled to. You might have a disability as classed under the Equality Act if you have a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial and long term impact on your life. A diagnosis of cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, or HIV automatically qualifies someone under the Equality Act 2010.

If you have a disability, your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you and they must make reasonable adjustments to help you to do your role. This might be adapting the workspace, for example by installing a ramp, or by changing your terms and conditions, like offering flexible hours. Speak to your employer about what adjustments might help you to thrive in your role. If you’re not sure, you might be able to speak to your doctor or an occupational therapist.

Seeking work

But what if you’re seeking a job? If you’re setting out at the beginning of your career, you might feel overwhelmed trying to find a career path that’s suitable for you. This might be especially true if you’re classed as having a disability, as there might be more workplace factors you feel that you have to consider. But everyone should be able to find a career that lights them up.

Disability employment services exist to understand your unique personal circumstances and to help you find a fulfilling career. When you’re looking for jobs, check for the ‘disability confident’ symbol. This means you’re guaranteed an interview if you meet the basic requirements in the advert.

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