Working and Type 1 diabetes: how to reconcile Type 1 diabetes with your professional life

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Work is an important part of our lives and represents around a third of our weeks. When you live with Type 1 diabetes, you need to be able to adapt it to your working patterns: office hours, irregular working hours or working from home… How can you reconcile Type 1 diabetes and your professional life? Here are the basics. 

Do you need to tell your employer or colleagues that you have Type 1 diabetes?

There are not obligations on the subject. It is an entirely personal choice whether you discuss your diabetes at work or not. The same applies to whether you talk about it with colleagues – it all depends on the relationships and trust you have with them. However, even if it’s not mandatory, it’s always recommended that you mention it to the occupational physician. The occupational physician must respect professional confidentiality, and they’re not allowed to reveal any health conditions that employees have, but they can set out certain guidelines or position-related arrangements for the employer (e.g. certain break times to be respected). 

Adapting your Type 1 diabetes to your work

Your health is what’s most important, so it is essential that you can manage your Type 1 diabetes, both at work and elsewhere. If you feel your blood sugar dropping, take a 10-minute break if possible, so that you can get some sugar in you and take it easy for a few moments. If that’s not possible, make sure that you always have something sugary with you, so that you can take/eat/drink it quickly, and, therefore, make it easier to manage your Type 1 diabetes at work. 

As for meals, do what you feel works for you! Bringing your own lunch that you’ve packed at home means you can know exactly what you’re eating and drinking. When possible, avoid ready-meals or foods particularly high in salt, sugar, and fat. If the staff canteen has some good lunch options, of course you can eat there. If you use functional insulin therapy, it’s business as usual. If not, think about choosing a balanced meal in sufficient quantity: vegetables, carbohydrates, and proteins make for the perfect combination. Your Type 1 diabetes shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a thriving career, and don’t forget that there’s no reason not to enjoy pizza day when it comes round! 

Irregular working hours

Working nights, being on-call, or have particularly irregular working hours can impact the way you manage your diabetes. Reconciling your professional life and Type 1 diabetes requires a little more discipline when you have an irregular working rhythm, as opposed to regular office hours. Whenever possible, check your blood sugar levels regularly. Adjust your insulin accordingly or take a small snack with you, if necessary. If you wear a continuous blood sugar monitor and/or an insulin pump, it’ll be easier to do these checks and adjustments. If you need a snack: sugar cubes or a juice box don’t take up much space and are quick to eat/drink. 

To reconcile Type 1 diabetes with irregular work, make sure you properly adapt your insulin doses in line with your out-of-sync mealtimes. If you take injections, it is of the utmost importance that your slow-release insulin is administered at a set time. 

When you’re on a break, you also need to adapt your insulin to your lifestyle rhythm. 

Type 1 diabetes and working from home

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have been strongly encouraged to offer working from home to their employees where possible. This can be a good way to manage Type 1 diabetes while working. By staying at home, you’ll face fewer challenges in managing low blood sugar, eating at times that suit you, and having meals that suit you (and that you want). 

Living with Type 1 diabetes doesn’t prevent you from working normally and to your full potential. It simply requires a little adapting and organization in line with your position. 

Let’s get to work! 

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