Today, I want to discuss the idea of returning to work during COVID when you’re chronically ill.
I’ve had the luxury of working from home since March when COVID first ramped up. As the world around me started to open back up, I knew it was a matter of time before I’d get pressured to return to work.
Does Having a Chronic Illness makes you a Vulnerable Individual to COVID
I think it’s important to first establish that the chronic illness community is a part of the vulnerable individual population.
The CDC defines vulnerable individuals as: the elderly; or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
Many of us within the chronic illness community are put on immunosuppressants to help keep our symptoms in check.
Opening Up America for those Chronically Ill
Here in the U.S., we have “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again”, a three-phased approach to return to normalcy (or something similar).
The phases are regulated on a state and local level. It often varies from county to county.
The hope is that the steps will allow people back to work while offering maximum protection to the population.
During phase 1, vulnerable individuals should shelter in place (stay home) and other members of the household should be aware that by returning to work, they could carry the virus back home.
Employers should encourage telework whenever possible and “strongly consider” special accommodations for vulnerable individuals.
During phase 2, the guidelines for vulnerable individuals remain the same.
However, now businesses such as daycare, schools, gyms, bars, etc are free to open up as long as they are adhering to social distancing and sanitation guidelines.
During phases 1 and 2, those chronically ill won’t be asked to work as normal. It’s not until Phase 3 that things get sticky for someone a chronic illness.
In phase 3, vulnerable individuals are able to “resume public interactions” while practicing social distancing with minimum exposure to social settings.
Employers have no restrictions on asking their staff to return to work.
Tips for Deciding on Returning to work during COVID when You’re Chronically Ill
Speak to Your doctor.
The first thing I did when I heard rumblings of plans to bring back the workforce was call my specialist.
Your medical team will have the best advice in terms of risk level, special precautions you can take (if any) if you are returning to work during COVID when you’re chronically ill.
My doctor actually wrote me a note that said I shouldn’t return to work until further notice but I don’t know how much weight that will yield with my employer.
Look into the bylaws for your organization. What are the bylaws and guidance for situations like this?
Of course no one could ever predict as worldwide pandemic so there may not be alot of information but do some research.
See what options, programs, or accomodations are available.
Based on what you find out during your research and from your doctor, try to work something out with your employer.
Maybe you can go in part-time and telework the rest of the days. Don’t just buckle at their demands and put yourself at risk.
As always, you are your advocate.
Cutback and Adjust.
I’m not counting anyone’s coins but if push comes to shove and you have to lose your job, you’ll need a lifestyle you can sustain in the interim.
Take a look at your budget and see where you can cut back a little. Start looking for part-time opportunities that you can do from home. Maybe start a new side hustle for yourself.
Pressured to Return to Work
Honestly, I feel worried. Feeling like I’m going to get fired for choosing not to expose myself to a virus is stressing me out.
Stress has always been a trigger for me.
It’s clear that some employers their bottom line more than the health and wellness of their employees. I get that business is business but when did compassion leave?
The truth is that if I died, they’d easily just replace me as if I didn’t matter.
So it’s up to me to prioritize my health and my wellbeing.
I can’t tell anyone else what to do – go to work, stay home, quit etc. All I know is that the weight of chronic illness became that much stronger when they asked about my plans of returning to work during COVID when chronically ill.