Finding a Job That Fits Your Health Needs
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2022 | Last updated: August 2023
Work can be hard when you have a rare chronic disease. Companies generally do not offer as much flexibility as is needed for doctor's appointments, breaks for midday treatments, and fluctuating energy levels. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is decades old, bosses may still think special accommodations are too troublesome or expensive.1
The unpredictability of symptoms may make holding down a corporate job challenging. And the stress of office work may be a trigger for some.
Plus, the physical requirements of some jobs may be outside the abilities of someone with a chronic disease. For example, someone with regular fatigue or muscle and joint issues may not be able to mow yards, waitress, or stand at a cash register for long periods of time.
The good news is that with the increase in remote work, opportunities are opening up for people who need flexible hours or fewer physical demands.
Types of job that may offer more flexibility
Depending on your interests and skills, there are many jobs that may allow you to work from home. In some cases you may work for yourself and build in as much downtime as you need to stay healthy.
Regardless of whether you work for a corporation or yourself, you still have to meet deadlines, attend meetings, and work certain hours. A few of the jobs suggested for people with long-term health issues include:2,3
- Call center telemarketing/customer service
- Online tutoring
- Clerical and office jobs
- Information technology/data processing
- Social media coordinator
- Virtual assistant
- Human resources
- Petsitting/pet grooming
- Retail sales
- Starting your own business
Looking for a job right for you
Before you begin looking for work, think about what you can reasonably expect of your body and how that may apply to the work world. Some things to think about:1,4
- What are your health and safety issues? Do you need regular rest breaks every day or only during flare times? Do you need to avoid infection risks?
- What time of day are you most productive? Does this fit with the job's requirements?
- If you are considering an on-site position, consider what the working environment is like. Do you need a refrigerator to keep medicine in? Is there an elevator for those days when you cannot climb stairs?
- Is it possible to take your annual leave in hours instead of full days?
- Do they offer health insurance? What is your share of the cost? Do your favorite doctors take this insurance?
- Is part-time or work-from-home possible?
Answers to these questions can shape your job search and help you prepare for interviews.
Making yourself marketable
If your rare disease is forcing you to make a career change, there are services that can help you find a new job. Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency and a CareerOneStop office that offer counseling, training, and support to people looking for work. You may qualify for free or low-cost training that leads to a new career.
Other groups that may offer guidance, training, and job boards include:5,6
- Ticket to Work trains adults ages 18 to 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits.
- AbilityOne.gov helps people who are blind or who have significant disabilities find jobs with nonprofit agencies. It also works with veterans and wounded warriors.
- Job Corps helps young adults with disabilities ages 18 to 24 find housing and job training.
- Veteran Readiness and Employment provides training, resume help, and accommodations support to veterans as they transition out of the military.
- USAJobs.gov lists jobs with the federal government. Many federal jobs are open to people with disabilities.
Avoiding employment scams
Unfortunately, there are companies out there that target potentially vulnerable people to fill jobs. This includes people with disabilities or illness, stay-at-home parents, and recently unemployed people. These "jobs" are sometimes called:7
- Direct sales
- Network marketing
- Multi-level marketing
Beware any job that says your pay will be 100 percent commission. This means you only get paid if you make a sale. Reputable companies recognize that a great deal of work goes into making a sale and will offer a salary plus commission.
Beware any job opportunity that requires you to buy their inventory, buy a set amount per month, or recruit or sponsor other people to get paid. People who work these jobs often lose money rather than make money.7
Signs that a job is legitimate:7
- The company has a complete job description listed on their website.
- It is clear what you are expected to do, who you will work for, any equipment you will need, and whether that equipment is provided by you or the company.
- The company has a policy for expenses it will cover or you will be reimbursed for.
Check out a company's reputation as an employer by talking with friends and colleagues. You can also see what other people are saying by looking at Glassdoor and online message boards like Reddit. The Better Business Bureau may help you get a picture of what their customers think about the company.
With a little homework, you can weed out employment scams and work for someone who will value all you bring to the workplace.