There are many health complications associated with diabetes: heart disease and stroke, eye damage, skin and mouth conditions, kidney damage and foot problems to name a few. When it comes to functioning at work, one of the main concerns of diabetics is the onset of hypoglycaemia, a condition characterised by one's blood sugar falling below a certain level. This can cause a person to feel faint, weak, or even lose consciousness altogether. The danger inherent in this is of course, painfully obvious. Thankfully, there are a number of preventive measures employees can take to keep themselves safe and their families free from worry:
- Plan for success
There are certain demands that are inescapable when it comes to the workplace: basic necessities like having enough rest as well as eating and drinking enough. These are biological imperatives and should be treated as such; you can ensure that these requirements will be met in advance by sleeping early, preparing your meals beforehand and keeping a refillable water bottle handy.
- Protect yourself
People with certain health conditions are typically afforded certain concessions under their respective country's labour laws, so it's important that you take the time to read up on them to educate yourself on the policies and practices therein. Your employer (be it out of ignorance or misinformation) may sometimes make requests of you that are unfeasible given your diagnosis, and it is your responsibility to bring them to light.
- Be mindful of your environment
Workplace celebrations are quite commonplace, with birthday parties and national holidays usually lying at the centre of it all. As parties go, there will typically be a smorgasbord of treats and snacks to add to the festivities. Unfortunately, things like chips, chocolates, cake and alcohol don't exactly fit well into the diabetes nutrition plan. The same goes for the stuff that typically lines the office pantry. If you do indulge, keep your portions as small as possible. Otherwise, pre-empt your temptation by keeping a small stock of blood-sugar friendly snacks (e.g. raw nuts and jerky) in your desk. Don't forget to include your medication in there as well!
- Make time to move
Taking breaks in between prolonged sitting has been found to significantly reduce postprandial glucose and insulin, which is good news if you're diabetic! Try setting a timer on your phone to go off at interval of 15-30 minutes as a reminder for movement. Engaging in walking meetings is also a great way to sneak in some extra steps in the workplace. Heading out? Taking stairs is another great tactic for getting in some additional light exercise.
- Don't create an information vacuum
Informing your workplace of your condition is the first and most simple step you can take towards creating a safer work environment. Not many are aware of the exact implications of diabetes, other than having to watch your blood sugar levels. Whether it's your supervisor or colleagues, talk to them and let them know how diabetes affects you specifically. This will give them the necessary information to identify certain red flags and step in when direct intervention is required.
It's important to remember that diabetics can still go on to lead relatively normal lives through the adoption of healthier lifestyle habits. By the same token, staying safe in the workplace is a simple matter of identifying the risk factors and addressing them in advance. Being prepared not only safeguards your productivity, but your happiness as well!