Navigating work when you have arthritis can be challenging and full of uncertainty. You might be wondering if you will have to stop working, whether you will need to change careers, if you should tell your employer about your condition and much more.
Making it WorkTM was developed to help people living with arthritis address these concerns.
Work is tied to a person’s identity and quality of life. Because arthritis can be diagnosed at any age, programs addressing employment are extremely important. No one wants to be forced to stop working before retirement because of a chronic condition.
We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions, videos and other resources about employment and arthritis that we hope you find useful.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the biggest challenges people with arthritis face at work?
Living with pain in the joints can make performing certain work tasks very challenging. Jobs that are very physically demanding are often a problem. It is not just the overall physical demand of the job that matters, but the fit between the joints affected by arthritis and the joints used for the specific tasks. For example, arthritis often affects the hands, so a lot of writing or computer use is often challenging for people with arthritis. If a person’s arthritis affects their feet, then a lot of standing and walking is difficult. Yet, at the same time, too much sitting or not being able to move around, is also challenging because immobility makes the pain and stiffness of arthritis worse.
In a prior study, people identified fatigue as the problem that most limited them at work. Unfortunately, fatigue is often the symptom of arthritis that is least helped by arthritis treatment, and people often don’t know how to deal with fatigue. It is also the symptoms least well understood by co-workers.
The fact that arthritis is not visible and that the symptoms vary a lot from day to day, makes it challenging for others at work to understand what the worker with arthritis is going through, and why they can do something one day, but not the next.
Commuting is also a big challenge for many people with arthritis. Taking public transit is difficult if one has to stand for a long time, especially in crowded, uncomfortable spaces, or if the travel involves a lot of walking and stairs. Commuting by car can also be challenging because immobility makes pain and stiffness worse and mornings are often a difficult time of day for people with arthritis.
Why is it important for someone with inflammatory arthritis to consider how their disease impacts their experience at work?
By gaining a better awareness of how their arthritis affects them at work, people can better understand what the issues are and find solutions to address them. We found that people often did not fully realize how their arthritis was affecting them. Once people have gained that insight, then they can modify how they do things, to better adapt it to their arthritis, and plan their work around their arthritis, if they have the flexibility to do so.
Should a person with arthritis tell their employer about their condition?
There is no clear cut answer to this question, as it really depends on the situation. The pros and cons need to be weighed very carefully. A worker has no obligation to tell their employer, unless their condition interferes with their ability to do the main duties of their job, and even then, they don’t need to say what the condition is. However, not telling their employer or supervisor that they have arthritis, can prevent people from getting the help they need. It can also prevent them from accessing support and services that would help them do their job more easily, or obtaining job accommodations that would allow them to better adapt their work to their arthritis. This is when workers might want to consider telling people at work about their arthritis. Also, if a person’s arthritis is affecting their performance at work, people at work likely have noticed, and not providing any explanation is also problematic.
When discussing accommodations with an employer, what rights does an employee have when it comes to privacy regarding their condition?
When requesting a job accommodation, employees will need to disclose that they have a health condition, but they don’t need to mention what that condition is. They may need a letter from a health professional outlining what they can and cannot do because of their condition. Privacy also extends to other people at work who should not be informed of the employee’s condition.
Supportive Environments for People with Arthritis
It’s common for people living with arthritis to experience workplace, school and public transportation challenges. In this Arthritis Wellness Conversations episode, learn how communities, schools, workplaces and public spaces can better accommodate those living with arthritis.
Take a Pain Check:
The Future of Work
Arthritis Patient Advisory Board member, Natasha Trehan, created a podcast called Take a Pain Check. In this episode, she and her guest talk about youth and young adults living with chronic illness and hesitancy to choose some jobs due to a need for workplace accommodations.
Arthritis and Back Pain Can Impact Employment
Arthritis and back pain are the main reasons why people have to stop working in Canada. Quitting work before retirement can have a major impact on a person’s life both financially and emotionally. Effective and early treatment is key to allowing people with arthritis to work longer.
Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Eileen Davidson was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 29 and was forced to quit her job as an esthetician to focus on her health. She is now involved in arthritis research and has become an advocate for others living with arthritis.
Osteoarthritis at Age 40
Firefighter, Kelly Barber, a man with both a physically demanding job and a passion for sports – including tennis, hockey, skiing and cycling – shares how osteoarthritis caught him off guard at age 40.
Meet Our Scientific Director:
Dr. Diane Lacaille
Dr. Diane Lacaille has been with Arthritis Research Canada since the beginning. She is a practicing rheumatologist and the creator of the Making it WorkTM program. Learn about her vision for Arthritis Research Canada.
Phase I - Employment & Arthritis: Making It Work™
Phase II - Employment & Arthritis: Making It Work™
Phase III - Employment & Arthritis: Making It Work™
"Employment and Arthritis: Making It Work™” a Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating an Online Program to Help People with Inflammatory Arthritis Maintain Employment
A Proof-of-Concept Study of the “Employment and Arthritis: Making It Work™” Program
Effectiveness of the Making It Work™ Program at Improving Absenteeism in Workers with Inflammatory Arthritis – Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial
Effectiveness of the Making it Work™ Program at Improving Presenteeism and Work Cessation in Workers with Inflammatory Arthritis – Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial
Identifying Determinants of Presenteeism in Workers with Inflammatory Arthritis
Process Evaluation of the “Making It Work” Program, an Online Program to Help People with Inflammatory Arthritis Remain Employed
Participants Experience of the Making it Work™ Program, an Online Program to Help People with Inflammatory Arthritis Remain Employed
Measurement Properties of Presenteeism Measures with Dual Answer Keys in Inflammatory Arthritis
A Qualitative Study Exploring Participants’ Perception of the Making it Work™ Program, an Online Program to Help People with Inflammatory Arthritis Maintain Employment
The Economic Burden of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Beyond Health Care Costs
Considerations for Evaluating and Recommending Worker Productivity Outcome Measures: An Update from the OMERACT Worker Productivity Group
OMERACT Filter Evidence Supporting the Measurement of At-work Productivity Loss as an Outcome Measure in Rheumatology Research
Worker Productivity Outcome Measures: OMERACT Filter Evidence and Agenda for Future Research
Measuring the Impact of Arthritis on Worker Productivity: Perspectives, Methodologic Issues, and Contextual Factors
Measuring Worker Productivity: Frameworks and Measures
Moderate to Good Construct Validity of Global Presenteeism Measures with Multi-Item Presenteeism Measure and Patient Reported Health Outcomes: Eular-Pro Worker Productivity Study
Cross-Sectional Associations Between Demographic, Job Related, Health Related and Psychosocial Factors and Three Different Measures of Presenteeism: Results from Eular-Pro at-Work Productivity Study
Worker Productivity Loss Remains a Major Issue for Patients with Inflammatory Arthritis and Osteoarthritis: Results from the International Eular-Pro Worker Productivity Study
Employment & Arthritis: Making it Work™
You have arthritis and you’re having a difficult time at work. What’s your biggest challenge – fatigue, pain, stress, inability to meet work productivity, depression? These are just a few of the challenges you may face at work if you live with arthritis. What if there were a computer program designed to help you manage your disease-related problems at work?
Bullying and Arthritis: We Need to Talk about It
You wouldn’t bully someone for having cancer, so why bully someone about any illness? We’re drawing attention to some of the common forms of bullying (including workplace bullying) experienced by people living with arthritis.
Achieving Wellness through Arthritis
Chris Pudlak was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2016. At the time, he was only 36 years old and a father to three young children.
Pudlak began documenting everything, including the food he ate, the time he ate, the impact of different drugs, diets and exercise on his symptoms and much more. After a year, he realized he had collected a lot of information that could potentially help other people.
Pudlak is now a member of Arthritis Research Canada’s Arthritis Patient Advisory Board and has published a book about his journey. It’s called Achieving Wellness Through Arthritis: How My Journey with Ankylosing Spondylitis Can Offer a Path to Wellness.
Arthritis in the Workforce
Did you know that arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are the most common reasons why people stop working in Canada?
This webinar with Arthritis Research Canada’s now Scientific Director, Dr. Diane Lacaille, will help employers
- appreciate the impact of arthritis on employment;
- learn about the risk factors for work loss and for reduced productivity at work;
- understand the workplace challenges faced by workers with arthritis; and
- learn strategies to help workers with arthritis address work-related issues, including discussing disclosure, supporting job accommodations and assessing the need for ergonomic modifications.
Overcoming Osteoarthritis Obstacles at Work
Is your osteoarthritis giving you a difficult time at work? What’s your biggest challenge? Fatigue, pain, stress, inability to meet work productivity, depression?
These are just some of the challenges you may face at work when you live with arthritis. But what if there was an online program designed to help you directly manage disease-related challenges at work?
Fatigue Can Be a Pain
When we think of arthritis, pain is the first thing that comes to mind, but many people living with this disease also experience crippling fatigue. Though, not everyone realizes their arthritis is to blame.
Of the 250 people who participated in Arthritis Research Canada’s Making It Work program – an online support program for helping people with arthritis to remain in the workforce – many were surprised to discover the connection between fatigue and their disease.
Tips for Managing Arthritis in the Workplace
Holding down a job while dealing with the physical, emotional and psychological challenges of arthritis can be a serious issue. While some jobs and some job sites may appear overwhelming to the newly diagnosed arthritis patient, most employers are open to adaptations and modifications to job duties for their employees.
Canada's Best Workplaces for Employees Living with Arthritis
Arthritis is the leading cause of work disability in Canada. Canadian employers are increasingly looking for ways to promote patient-focused prevention, treatment and management of arthritis as part of a health and wellness program for their employees. To raise awareness of arthritis in the workplace and the needs of employees living with arthritis, Arthritis Consumer Experts’ annual Canada’s Best Workplaces for Employees Living with Arthritis Program identifies and recognizes Canadian companies that are applying best arthritis practices.
Mary Pack Arthritis Program
The Mary Pack Arthritis Program has a wide variety of health care providers and services to help people with different types of arthritis manage and treat their physical and psychological symptoms. They give patients access to physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers and more.
Take a Pain Check Podcast
Take a Pain Check is a podcast developed by Arthritis Patient Advisory Board Member, Natasha Trehan. She was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at age 13 and, at the time, felt there was little support for youth living with arthritis. Natasha interviews other people with chronic illness, physicians, experts and more as part of this bi-monthly podcast. Her ultimate goal: to create a supportive community.
The ArthritisBC+Me portal was designed to help British Columbia patients learn about the arthritis programs and resources best suited to their needs in the province and make connections with others in the BC arthritis community.
Studies have shown that with the right supports in place, employees with arthritis can continue to thrive. While many people with arthritis are able to manage their symptoms at work, some people may require additional support. The Arthritis and Work web portal provides strategies to help employees with arthritis manage their symptoms in the workplace and beyond, as well as information about your rights and responsibilities as an employer, tips for creating an arthritis-friendly workplace, as well as possible accommodation options if needed.
Arthritis Patient Advisory Board
Arthritis Research Canada works FOR and WITH patients.
Our Patient Advisory Board members and scientists collaborate to ensure research is relevant, meaningful and helpful.