Finding a job that doesn’t exacerbate a person's fibromyalgia syndrome symptoms is a very real challenge that over 12 million people between ages 18 and 60 in the United States have. Everyone deserves to find a job that leaves them, or at least their bank accounts, fulfilled without having to sacrifice their comfort. This means that a person will have to put a little more planning in their job hunt, but the payoff at the end is worth it.
Identifying Work Preferences
Identifying what is needed from the employer is a vital step in a job search. Someone with fibromyalgia should be honest with themselves about what their capabilities and limitations are. It will allow for them to find a job where they are comfortable and productive, thus producing better and more quality work. Someone should not feel obligated to take a job where they will be uncomfortable. Knowing that not everyone has this privilege, if possible for someone to hold out for a job in which they feel comfortable, their work and life will be better.
Severity: Start with the basics. Begin with identifying where on the spectrum your fibromyalgia syndrome is, be it mild, moderate, or severe. The severity of your fibromyalgia should be in mind when you are looking for your next job.
Commuting: Never underestimate the stress of commuting. Remember, that 45 minute ride to this job doesn’t sound like a lot, but 45 minutes both ways, in traffic, while dealing with chronic pain may not be something you want to do day in and day out. The fastest way to burn out is to have a wretched commute. Set up your GPS like you are going to the prospective job around the time you would have to leave to get an idea of how long the commute takes.
Sitting and Standing: Sitting and standing don’t seem like very difficult tasks, but when you think about the amount of sustained hours you may need to be in one position, the idea loses some of its charm. Remember, just because standing or sitting doesn’t feel uncomfortable, or that uncomfortable at first, doesn’t mean it won’t a few hours into your day. Practice by sitting or standing in one place, as if you were in an office, all day. If it gets too uncomfortable, stop. Make note of any discomfort of the course of your trial run. That discomfort may be easy enough to deal with now, but the pain gets a lot worse when your officemate won’t stop popping his gum or your boss has an impossible deadline for you to meet.
Telecommuting: Do you have any skills that you can employ in the telecommuting world? Do you type fast? Are you good at transcribing? Can you edit? Do you freelance? Can you teach kids over the internet? There are many jobs available through telecommuting. The lack of coworkers in your immediate space may feel funny, or you may have trouble staying on task from home, but nothing really beats the comfort of your own home.
Utilizing Your Talents
Now that you have identified what your work preferences are, it is time to start thinking about how you can use things you love to help you find work. Do you like to write? There are several freelancing writing sites, like Upwork, where you can create a profile and apply for writing work.
Do you craft? You can make a pretty penny on sites like Etsy, where you can sell your own crafts. If you choose to craft in bulk, check to see if there are any local craft fairs near you where you can rent a table to sell your work. While there, you can have business cards or slips of paper with your website or Etsy site and your social media to keep your customers in touch with your work.
Can you teach or have experience working with kids? There are places online that have virtual part time teaching jobs, where you teach students English overseas one-on-one over the computer. Apply to sites like Vikpid. Start making a list of all of the things you are good at. Get really creative. Oh, you’re very funny and talkative? You might be great at sales! Are you super detail oriented? Maybe you can take a job doing some copywriting.
What to Avoid
Even though you know what type of environment would make you happy as a worker, sometimes it is easy to overlook parts of a job that will further exacerbate your condition. Let’s look at some job conditions you may want to avoid.
Sitting Still: Any job that requires you to sit still for long periods of time may not be beneficial to you. Stationary office jobs or data entry jobs that keep you sitting for hours on end may irritate your fibromyalgia. Also, stay away from jobs like airline pilots, or drivers, where you would have to sit for long periods of time in a confined space.
Sustained Standing: On the flip side, you also don’t want a job where you are constantly standing. Think about jobs where you see people on their feet all day long: postal workers, retail, tour guides, and hair dressers.
Bending, Stooping, Climbing, Kneeling, Lifting: You don’t want a job twisting yourself into unnatural positions, either! Anything with excessive physical labor, like auto mechanics, landscapers, and construction workers are constantly bent over. Other jobs, where you have to exert physical effort to help support someone else, like a personal trainer or a physical therapist, are also jobs you may want to steer clear of.
High Stress Jobs: This is a big one to avoid, and often a hard one to avoid. High stress jobs are hard to avoid for two reasons: 1. Often, you are really passionate about your high stress job, making it more high stress. But people like ER nurses, lawyers, and teachers are in very high levels of stress on a day-to-day basis, which is not good for anyone who has any type of illness, let alone a chronic one. The other reason is because you may not even realize your job is high stress before you start. Maybe the job working at the bank or the bail bonds place didn’t seem stressful at first, but the more you deal with people who are stressed about their money, the more dangerous it is for you to be in an environment like that.
Allergen Triggers: Finally, try to avoid jobs that may trigger your allergies. Any jobs that involve a lot of scents, like cosmetic sales, or pollen, like floral work, could trigger some allergic reactions from you.
Qualities to Look For in a Job
You may be overwhelmed with all of the things you should avoid while looking for a job. I know, I know. I’ve told you to get a job where you don’t move too much, but don't move too little, where you don’t sit nor stand too long. I’ve even told you that you can’t be a florist because the pollen might bother you. But there are some qualities of fibro-friendly work spaces.
- Limited physical exertion
- Regular breaks permitted (to walk around and get water)
- An accommodating company or office space
- Freedom to move around
- Set your schedule
- Limited stress
- No allergens
- Ability to telecommute
How To Be Your Best You At Work
No matter which job you decide on, there will be days where you do not feel very well. You should follow these tips in order to try to keep you feeling your best over long periods of time.
Sleep: Sometimes fibromyalgia makes it hard to sleep. Try to get a routine going and stick to it so your body has an easier time adapting. Try to include soothing herbal tea and maybe some brief meditation to help put you at peace before sleep.
Bring a sweater: Sometimes the cold can exacerbate painful symptoms. Keep a cardigan or a sweater in your work space.
Keep It Moving: Take a lot of breaks so that you are not sitting too much. This is especially true if you have a job where you are expected to sit for extended periods of time. Get up regularly and get water, go to the restroom, maybe walk around the block during your lunch break.
Customize Your Comfort: Make sure you have comfortable shoes. If your job allows for it, where sneakers or other comfortable shoes with strong arch support. If you have to wear dress shoes, use inserts. Also, think of ways to make your office more comfortable. Many office supply stores sell aids to make your work space more comfortable, like specialty foot rests and head rests. Include a stress ball in your desk drawer to keep stress from meetings at bay.
Go Get Started
Now it is time to find a job that will keep you happy and comfortable. Start thinking about what you need from your employer, where your strengths are, and keep sending out applications. You’ll have a job you love and deserve before you know it!