Moving on: Working when you have juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)

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JIA and the workplace

It is important that you talk to your employer about JIA.You might not want to tell your employer because you may be worried that they might fire you, not schedule you for as many hours or tell your co-workers. However, there are many ways that you and your employer can work together to help you cope with JIA while at work.

Modifications to your workspace:

  • Organize your workspace so that items you commonly use are close by.
  • If you sit at a desk and use a computer, keep your chair a comfortable distance away from the computer. Keep your elbows in a relaxed 90 degree angle to the keyboard.
  • Use a step stool to reach for items that are on high shelves.
  • If your job requires that you stand for long periods of time, stand on rubber matting or anti-fatigue matting.

Time management:

  • Work at a moderate, reasonable pace.
  • Perform the important tasks during the time when you feel most energetic.
  • Take breaks!
  • If your workplace offers alternate working hours or shifts, use it once you find out what works best for you. Sometimes working earlier or later in the day may be helpful.

Other tips:

  • To avoid putting strain on your joints, alternate your position between standing, sitting and walking.
  • Remember to get up and stretch, about every hour.

Moving and lifting

  • If possible try to avoid lifting heavy objects.
  • If you have to move heavy objects as a part of your job, use a cart or a machine to assist you when possible.
  • Try to roll or slide heavy objects when possible.
  • Take your time to move objects. Rushing can cause injury to your joints.

Other solutions

  • If you use a computer, try using a split keyboard. This will keep your hands, wrists and forearms in a more natural position.
  • A trackball mouse can reduce your hand and arm movement while on the computer.
  • Use an electric stapler or hole punch.
  • If telephone headsets are available, use them. This way, your neck won’t bend when holding the phone receiver.
  • Use insoles in your shoes. They will help to decrease the strain on your feet, legs and lower back.
  • Avoid wearing high heels, especially at work.

You need to let your employer know about JIA, since it may affect your ability to work. This will help to keep you and your coworkers safe. Here are some possible questions your employer might ask you:

  • Is it contagious?
  • How is it treated?
  • Do your medications affect your ability to concentrate?
  • What signs or symptoms show that you are in need of medical help?
  • What, if any, are your emergency instructions?
  • Do you have any activity restrictions?
  • Will you need any accommodations (changes or help) to participate in work?
  • Will you need to miss work very often?
Last updated: January 31st 2017