A woman is slumped over a desk at work while clouds and lightening representing a flare roll in and overtake her. A colleague offers support.

IBD Disclosure in the Workplace

Almost a year and a half ago, I left my full time corporate job in patient advocacy at a small biotech company. The demands on my time and energy were too much and my health was suffering. After taking a small break to regroup and give my body the rest and nourishment it needed, I transitioned into freelance work.

At the time, this felt like a great option - I was able to specifically take projects I wanted to work on, that didn't feel cumbersome. I set my own hours, and there was always flexibility for days I didn't feel well, and the times that I had doctor appointments or infusions.

This or That

Have you disclosed IBD at work to a supervisor and/or colleague?

Working more hours

A few months ago, I was presented with an opportunity to re-enter the corporate world in a different capacity as a copywriter for a clinical trial marketing agency. During the interview process, they mentioned that they'd ideally like someone who could work full time, but would be open to part time hours. When I was offered the position, it was offered at full time.

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I felt guilty turning down the extra work, the salaried job (rather than an hourly wage) and all the benefits that come with full time work. However, I still had a few freelance clients and my health still wasn't where I wanted to be after a difficult year of challenges. I offered 30 hours a week, give or take a little.

My offer was accepted.

Reliability at work

When I jumped into work, I was four days out of emergency surgery and should've delayed my first day, but I didn't want to let anyone down or have them worry about my reliability.

I'm now seven weeks into the job, and have shared very little personally about myself. This goes along with the company culture, and honestly I don't mind it. Meeting are run sharply against an agenda, there's not much small talk, and thing are very efficient.

Earlier this week, I began experiencing an uptick in my Crohn's symptoms. My current job gives me the flexibility to move around meetings and work at odd hours as necessary, so I thought I could manage it on myself without having to share it with anyone.

Two days later, I knew I had to go to the emergency room.

Disclosing IBD at work

I had an afternoon meeting with my boss, and towards the end chose to share my "elevator speech" for acquaintances:

I wanted to let you know that I live with Crohn's disease. I haven't mentioned before because it hasn't interfered with my ability to do my job or to complete tasks on time. I am choosing to share it now, a little before I was ready, because I wanted you to judge me on my work and feel like I was reliable, and I don't want to change this. I'm sharing it now because I've had some symptoms that are concerning and after working I'll be heading to the ER. I'm not sure if I'll just be there for a few ours or if I'll be admitted and have to stay overnight. I'll keep you posted.

The verbal response I received was so kind and thoughtful. My boss shared that she was glad I chose to share, so that she and the team could help me if I get into a bind with deadlines or such. She mentioned she knew how devastating and demanding living with Crohn's could be, and that she was so sorry I was going through this.

Although I was sort of forced by my body to disclose earlier than I wanted, the disclosure itself went better than I expected and I was grateful for that.

Question for the reader

When you apply for, interview or start a new job, do you disclose that you live with IBD? I'd love to hear your answer (and how you do it!) below.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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