Chronic sick on the job: Hiding or rather talking about it?

Chronic sick on the job: Hiding or rather talking about it?

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Do I say it or not? Decision support for chronically ill people

Many people in professional life go to work despite chronic illnesses. The number of employees with chronic ailments and disabilities will increase in the future due to demographic developments, according to the chair of work and occupational rehabilitation at the University of Cologne. For those affected, the question often arises as to whether they should keep silent about their illness or initiate superiors and colleagues. The “Do I say it?” Project is intended to help chronically ill people make decisions.

Still a taboo subject for many: People with disabilities or chronic illnesses such as chronic pain often conceal their suffering at work - for fear of exclusion and discrimination. The University of Cologne is currently working together with the researching bio-pharmaceutical company AbbVie, BAG Selbsthilfe and the Association of German Company and Works Physicians (VDBW) on interactive help for those affected. In the “Say it?” Project, interested parties will soon be able to use an online reflection aid to help them make decisions.

Chronic illnesses on the job - more a rule than an exception

"Against the background of demographic change, working with a chronic illness is becoming more and more the rule rather than the exception," write the experts from the University of Cologne in a press release on the project. For fear of discrimination, many of those affected would refrain from informing their superiors about their suffering.

The first step is a hurdle

"The step to personal advice in self-help organizations or through the company doctor is also a high hurdle," explains Dr. Wolfang Panter, President of the VDBW. An open approach could have numerous advantages. The education could lead to more support in the workplace and reduce pressure and stress, since the disease no longer has to be hidden. The online help offers anonymous support and represents only a low threshold for those affected, Dr. Panter.

How does the project work?

"We work with a mixture of explanatory videos and questions that should make you think," reports Professor Dr. Mathilde Niehaus, Head of the Chair for Work and Vocational Rehabilitation at the University of Cologne. The aim is to support chronically ill people in making the best possible decision for their individual situation. "And of course everything stays anonymous," says the professor.

No patent solutions, but a decision-making aid

The aim of the project is not to provide a patent solution for this question, but to offer an interactive aid for reflection. The feedback on the individual situation thus acquired can help to better assess the possible consequences of the decision.

Equality in the workplace

"Together with our partners, we are still committed to the equal participation of people with chronic illnesses in working life," adds Dr. Patrick Horber, managing director of AbbVie Germany. In order to make the online offer a meaningful support, company doctors, self-help organizations, works councils and representatives for the severely disabled are involved in the development process.

Working atmosphere plays a crucial role

In a pilot study with 250 subjects with chronic illnesses, initial findings on important framework conditions have already been gained. It was shown that the working atmosphere, in particular, plays a role in whether open dealings have positive or negative consequences. "The assumption that the climate or the culture at the workplace play an important role in determining whether an open approach has positive consequences for those affected is empirically confirmed by the study," summarizes Dr. Martin Danner, Managing Director of BAG Selbsthilfe.

Supported by the Federal Ministry

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) has also issued a funding decision. Now the 30-month project phase begins, in which the online help is to be created. (vb)

Author and source information

Video: Dr. Blair P. Grubb, MD, Cardiovascular Medicine: Autonomic Dysfunction u0026 Chronic Fatigue in EDS (November 2022).