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Manage Diabetes at Work to Balance Health and Productivity
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Manage Diabetes at Work to Balance Health and Productivity

|Aug 10, 2023
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In today’s world, many people are living with diabetes. It’s a scary proposition because there’s no cure for it. However, there are many ways to control it. 

Typically, the focus is more on the prevention of diabetes. Doctors want to give patients the information necessary to avoid the disease at all costs. That’s great for those who are pre-diabetic, but it doesn’t do much for people who already have it. 

If you wish to control diabetes, you might be worried about what to do, especially at work. You could be the best employee ever, but that’s not enough if you’re always out sick or away from your desk because you’re taking insulin or testing your blood sugar levels. 

US law is clear; diabetes is a disability, so you’re protected with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means your workplace must work with you to provide a comfortable working space. However, asking for assistance can be stressful, but this article offers tips and other information to help you understand the condition better. 

Rise of Diabetes in the Workplace

In America, the number of people who have diabetes has tripled in the last 30 years, according to a PAHO report. The three primary contributing factors to the rise of diabetes are being overweight, physical inactivity, and obesity. 

Diabetes is a condition where the body doesn’t regulate and use sugar as fuel as it should. With time, too much sugar will circulate in the blood. Those high blood sugar levels will lead to disorders of the immune, nervous, and circulatory systems. 

Primarily, there are two problems at play in your body. The pancreas can’t produce insulin. This hormone regulates how the sugar moves into the cells. Likewise, the cells don’t respond to it, taking in less sugar than necessary. 

The symptoms of diabetes often appear slowly, and many people live with it for years and don’t know it. However, you might have these issues: 

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Darkened skin around the neck and armpits
  • Tingling or numbness in the feet and hands
  • Frequent infections

Rise of Diabetes in the Workplace 1

Though it’s unknown why diabetes occurs, being inactive and overweight are the two primary contributing factors. When you’re less active, you’re at a higher risk of getting diabetes. In fact, physical activity (exercise) controls your weight, which helps you use the body’s sugar as energy. This will also make your cells sensitive to the insulin, taking more of it in. 

Many people don’t realize the complications that can come from diabetes. It will affect all major organs, including your kidneys, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels. You may experience these medical conditions and issues: 

  • Nerve damage in your limbs
  • Blood vessel and heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin conditions
  • Eye damage
  • Hearing impairment
  • Slow healing
  • Dementia
  • Sleep apnea 

Rise of Diabetes in the Workplace 2

Because more people are now working from home or at desk jobs, they find it hard to get active and lose weight. They’re overweight or obese, which means they’re more susceptible to diabetes. 

Ways to avoid diabetes include preventative measures, such as: 

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Losing weight
  • Getting active
  • Avoiding inactivity for long periods 

The Importance of Diabetes Management

Most employers are willing to help their employees avoid diabetes complications. In fact, US employers are spending more on people with diabetes. SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) shows that roughly 6.3 percent of full-time workers will miss 5.5 more days per year than those without diabetes. This costs employers $16 billion extra. 

Overall, it’s crucial to manage your diabetes as much as possible. This will prevent complications and enhance your well-being. Likewise, employers will lose less money and have you working and staying productive for longer. 

People with diabetes are more prone to issues such as lower back pain and fatigue, vision loss, and more. Therefore, it’s crucial to focus on diabetes management to avoid complications. When you do so, you’ll lower your health risks and see other benefits, such as: 

  • Reduced Risk of Vision Loss – If your diabetes goes uncontrolled for a long time, you could experience eye problems. In fact, diabetes could damage the blood vessels in the retinas, which is referred to as diabetic retinopathy. You could be blind, but you might also have glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision problems.
  • Less Back Pain – When you control diabetes effectively, you’ll have less back pain and fatigue. It might be wise to request an ergonomic chair from your employer while working.
  • Decreased Dementia Risk – Uncontrolled diabetes could mean you’re more susceptible to dementia in your later years. While scientists don’t understand the link between them, evidence shows that not controlling your blood sugar levels will increase your risk of dementia.
  • Better Blood Sugar Levels – Talk to your medical provider to determine the recommended range for your blood sugar levels. Those with high blood sugar might have headaches, urinary problems, and blurred vision. Likewise, low blood sugar levels can make you irritable, tired, or shaky.

The Importance of Diabetes Management

Tips for Managing Diabetes in the Workplace

It’s important to realize that there is a way to control diabetes if you already have it. Though it might seem impossible to eat healthily while at work and get more exercise, it’s possible if you follow the tips below. 

Plan for Success

Your workday begins before you ever get to the job site. In fact, you should start things off right by getting plenty of sleep and eating breakfast. Skipping a meal can be dangerous because it could throw off your blood sugar levels and make it harder to concentrate. 

Likewise, drink some water before you go to work to rehydrate for the day. Make sure you’ve got access to clean water throughout your day, too. 

These simple steps will lower your stress level and help keep the blood sugar steady throughout the day.

Talk to Your Boss

Many workplaces aren’t suitable for people with diabetes. You might discuss how to prevent diabetes with your boss and talk to them about ways they can improve the space for those with the condition. 

For example, you might not have a place to store insulin or are unable to take breaks for snacks while on the job. Explain these things in simple terms because many people don’t know much about it. If your employer won’t do anything, ask your doctor to write a note for what you require. 

It might also be time to talk to your employer about a standing desk. Explain the benefits of standing; they might be more willing to provide them for the team to help them avoid getting diabetes and assist those who already have it. 

Does standing help you lose weight? It’s a question many people ask about, and it could be because you’re not sitting all day long at a desk job.

Talk to Your Boss

Know Your Rights

It can be scary to think about telling your boss that you have diabetes, and you might be nervous. To make you feel better, read about your rights so that you’re confident. The law is there for you, especially when asking for minor changes that will help you control diabetes. Things like a smart desk can help a lot. 

Your boss cannot punish you for asking for help. The law actually requires them to meet reasonable requests. If possible, you might even consider discussing working from home. A home standing desk can help you stand more often, and you’ll have access to all of your medications and necessities. 

Pick a Partner

You’re not required to tell everyone at work about your health condition, but it might help you to share. One person should be aware enough to know the symptoms of low blood sugar, where you keep your supplies, and how to provide assistance when needed. 

Fight the Food Temptation

Offices often have morning donuts and birthday celebrations, but these can be problematic for diabetics. Try to avoid eating too many sweets by keeping healthy snacks at your desk. When you do wish to indulge, make sure to only eat a small portion and watch blood sugar levels.

Fight the Food Temptation

Snack Smart

Most people have that midafternoon slump, which has them craving sugar. Plan for that by having protein bars available, keeping nuts at your workstation, or having a lunchbox full of hummus and vegetables.

Snack Smart to Control diabetes

Move More

It’s wise to find ways to get more physical activity in your life, especially if you sit at a desk all day. Every 30 minutes, walk up and down the hall and do muscle stretches while sitting. 

Take part of your lunch break to walk up and down the stairs to boost your heart rate. If possible, you might ask your boss to get you a standing desk; you can easily perform standing desk exercises when you have a moment of free time.

Move More

Know When You Should Test

The goal is to avoid diabetes complications whenever possible, and that means knowing when to test your blood sugar each day. Ask your doctor for advice here. Likewise, explain this to your boss because you might need a specific time away from your duties and a quiet space to complete the task.

Know When You Should Test

Expect Emergencies

Make sure you have the tools necessary to treat low blood sugar. You can either ask your employer to supply a special place for your supplies, keep a bag nearby, or keep them in your desk. It might also be wise to have a note explaining how it all works for times when you can’t provide directions yourself. 

Consider a CGM

A continuous glucose monitor will help you check your blood sugar anytime. There’s a tiny sensor that goes under your skin, and you’ll carry an attached monitor on a belt clip or in a pocket. Likewise, you’ll get alerts when your blood sugar levels are too low or high.

Consider a CGM

Be Smart About Your Schedule

The best way to control diabetes is to schedule doctor’s appointments more frequently to ensure you’re healthy. Try to be flexible and creative with timing. Most work days are slow around the holidays, so plan your doctor’s visits then. 

Another option would be to schedule your doctor’s visit when you’re already off the calendar at work because of a vacation. 

Use Your Team

Make sure your healthcare team knows what’s happening so that they can troubleshoot any issues if they arise. Likewise, you may ask your employer to bring a diabetes educator to work one day to talk about the prevention for diabetes and how to avoid it. People will listen because they don’t want diabetes themselves. 

Create a Script

Though you might prefer to keep your situation private, it might pop up on you and put you in the limelight. Plan what you’ll say beforehand. You could say something like: “I’ve got to take medicine to control diabetes and watch what I eat.” 

Keep Calm

If you don’t have a refrigerator at work to keep your insulin between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s all right. Most healthcare professionals tell you to keep it at room temperature when you use it. Likewise, insulin will last roughly one month at room temperature.

Keep Calm

Track Your Triggers

Keep a journal about your triggers. For example, you might notice that you struggle to control diabetes at certain times of the day, month, or year. Knowing what makes it worse can help your healthcare team determine the best course of action. 

Consider a Standing Desk from Autonomous

Many people wish to know how to prevent diabetes, but what happens when you already have it? You’ll need to control it effectively, and that will likely mean speaking to your employer and a few trusted coworkers about your issues. 

It’s wise to explain things to your boss and tell them that you wish to control diabetes so that it doesn’t affect your productivity. This might mean suggesting to them that you get an L-shaped standing desk or have more time away from your space to test your blood sugar levels. 

The best thing you can do is stay calm and remember that many others suffer from diabetes. You might also advocate for others and ask your employer to bring in an educator to talk about the diabetes guideline. Coworkers will learn how to avoid getting diabetes or control it if they already have it.

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