5 Tips for Navigating a New Job
Here’s what to consider when a job offer comes your way
1. Ask About Benefits
Before you say “yes” to a job offer, inquire about the company’s benefits package. You can see if they offer insurance and, if so, whether your medications and diabetes management devices are covered. In most states, diabetes medication, including insulin, is covered, as are medical supplies such as test strips and equipment such as blood glucose meters, but insurance plans might cover only one brand or only generics.
Getting a glimpse at the insurance offerings can help you determine how your care might be impacted by the new job. Certain types of insurance require that you see in-network providers only. If that’s the case—and if members of your health care team are out of network—you’ll need to consider whether you’re willing and able to find new health care providers or if you’ll need to buy insurance through your state’s marketplace that does cover your team. Ask if the job offers a flexible spending account, which allows you to put some of your pretax earnings onto a debit card specifically for health expenses.
2. Decide Whether to Share
At most jobs, you aren’t obligated to tell your employer that you have diabetes, unless you’re asking for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many people, especially those with desk jobs, choose not to share because their risks at work are low, says Lori Blanton, MS, CHES, CDE, a certified diabetes educator at AdventHealth Tampa. But consider telling your team if safety becomes an issue. At a job where lots of physical or mechanical labor is involved and you’re at risk for low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), you do not want to put yourself or others at risk. If you’re planning on sharing, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. You can be educational, quick, and straightforward. You might also wait to see if you’ll need accommodations from your employer before you tell anyone. When you do, your manager and human resources are your first stops.
3. Manage Stress
A new job can mean new things to worry about. Stress, in turn, can raise your blood glucose levels. It can also make it harder to stick with diabetes self-management tasks. Stress reduction is key for blood glucose management as well as mental health. “Stress and diabetes do not always mix well,” says Blanton. “Finding a hobby or craft you enjoy helps take away some of the mental burden diabetes places on you.” Other coping methods include eating regular healthy meals and snacks, getting enough sleep, and practicing meditation. If stress or mental health issues are affecting your work, check with human resources to see if your company offers an employee assistance program, a free, voluntary program that can offer confidential mental health assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to workers.
4. Outline Your Needs
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations if you need to manage your diabetes on the clock. Your needs will be unique to you and your job. You might need breaks to check your blood glucose, for instance, or you may want a regular schedule for meals or snacks. If you can’t keep your supplies with you, you might need a designated location to check your blood glucose. Or you might use sick leave to go to doctor’s appointments or diabetes education classes. But the law helps only if you share your needs with your employer. “You don’t have protections if your employer doesn’t know you have a disability,” says Carolina Caicedo, JD, director of legal advocacy for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Your employer can come back with an alternative accommodation. If, say, you ask for a mini fridge to keep your food and insulin cool, your employer might provide you with a lunch box and cold pack instead. A doctor’s note can help you get the accommodations you need. Learn more at eeoc.gov/laws/types/diabetes.cfm.
5. Keep Moving
A lot of jobs don’t require much movement. But standing or sitting in one place for too long can spell trouble for blood glucose management. To help manage your condition, the ADA’s 2019 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes suggests breaking up sedentary activity by briefly standing, walking, or performing other light activity every 30 minutes. It also recommends at least 150 minutes of activity each week, spread over at least three days. Exercise doesn’t have to come all at once. Taking a few short fitness breaks during the day can help you reach that 150-minute mark. “A 10-minute walk during lunch does wonders,” Blanton says. “When your blood sugar is in your target range, you feel better, so however you can achieve that, keep it up.” Some companies offer employee fitness programs or gym rebates. Check to see if these are benefits you might enjoy.