Going back to work after time away can be difficult for anyone, and it may be even more stressful for people who are living with MG.
Returning to a workplace setting after an extended period away may be a stressful change in your life. Whether you’re going back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic, a long vacation or a health issue, there may be some useful strategies available to help you, particularly if you are living with myasthenia gravis (MG). Implementing strategies that help you feel more comfortable in that environment or figuring out an arrangement that allows for more flexibility, like working from home permanently, may be effective ways to alleviate stress.
For Alexis,* who lives with MG, communication and self-advocacy are the best ways to lay a foundation for a successful arrangement with your workplace. Whether your goal is to be in a workplace environment that is safe or justify why you should be able to permanently work from home, he believes that an open dialogue with the right people is the best way to have your needs met. “MG is a rare disease, and so if you have to explain to your doctor what it is, then it’s likely your manager might not know about it. It doesn’t compute. If you can explain to them what you are going through in layman’s terms and they understand your situation, then they can be an ally,” he said.
But talking to your employer might not be an easy thing to do without preparing in advance, and not everyone feels comfortable speaking about their MG. With that in mind, below are five tips that may be useful for a return to the workplace, whether you want to disclose your MG to others or not.
1. Be prepared when you go into any work-related conversation about your myasthenia gravis.
If you want to begin by explaining what MG is to your employer, then you may want to put together a list of talking points providing explanations and answers to questions about your MG. This may help them better understand what you are going through and see if and how they can make reasonable accommodations for you.
You may also want to have documentation from your healthcare team to further support your conversation and any requests you have for those reasonable accommodations.
2. Have your desired outcomes in mind when you bring forward concerns with returning to the workplace to your manager or HR department.
This may enable a productive dialogue where both parties feel like they are on the same side. Take some time to think about if and how your myasthenia gravis symptoms may affect your productivity at work and what solutions your company may be able to provide to you. Do you have any past experiences at a job that may help inform what you need in your current role?
3. Have you considered wearing a mask at your workplace?
Keeping a mask with you at all times may be something you already do, and if your workplace has a lot of people who work close to each other, wearing a mask may be a way to make you feel more comfortable. It may add another level of protection from exposing yourself to certain illnesses.
4. Try disinfecting your workspace regularly and keep hand sanitizer with you.
Keeping disinfectant solution at your workspace so you can clean it regularly may be a way to reduce the spread of germs. Additionally, keeping hand sanitizer at your desk and a travel-sized version on you may also aid in the effort to limit germ exposure and spread.
5. Is working from home an option for you?
Depending on the kind of work you do for a living and if working from home suits you and your employer, you may want to consider requesting to work from home partially or on a permanent basis. For some, eliminating the commute alone helps to conserve energy levels. Think about how this might be a benefit for you when applied to your work productivity.
Not everyone will understand what it’s like to live with MG and the daily struggles that are often experienced. But using these tips may be beneficial to you when it’s time to return to the workplace, whether you want to disclose your MG to your employer and co-workers or not.