Finding a job and working with hypothyroidism can be challenging.
Fatigue, trouble concentrating and sensitivity to cold can make it difficult to manage in the workplace.
If you are living with hypothyroidism and finding it difficult to find a job or cope in the workplace, you may be eligible for Government funded employment support from APM.
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder in Australia. Other thyroid conditions include hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.
In this guide, we discuss:
- Common challenges people with hypothyroidism face at work
- Solutions for managing symptoms in the workplace
- How to access workplace adjustments
- Accessing support when looking for a job with hypothyroidism
For more information about employment support for people with thyroid conditions, get in touch with APM.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a chronic condition of the thyroid gland and it is the most common thyroid disorder in Australia. It is also known as an 'underactive thyroid'.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is responsible for making hormones that help control the body’s metabolism. This includes things like heart rate, blood pressure, weight and body temperature.
People with hypothyroidism have an underactive thyroid which does not produce enough hormones to regulate their metabolism.
This may be because the thyroid gland is diseased (primary hypothyroidism) or because the pituitary gland is not signalling the thyroid to produce enough hormones (secondary hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s disease is a common cause of hypothyroidism.
Symptoms may include:
- Weight gain
- Cold sensitivity/intolerance to cold
- Muscle pain
- Hair loss
- Dry skin/facial bloating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slower heart rate
- Lack of motivation
There is no cure for hypothyroidism, it is a lifelong condition.
Working with hypothyroidism – what are the challenges?
Hypothyroidism affects everyone differently. The type and severity of symptoms vary from person to person.
Some people with hypothyroidism find that their symptoms do not greatly inhibit their ability to work. Others may find it difficult to keep up with the demands of the workplace.
Fatigue and muscle pain can make it difficult to maintain a busy or physically intense work roster.
Travelling to and from work can be a great effort in itself and trouble sleeping can make it difficult to get to work on time.
People with hypothyroidism may experience difficulty concentrating on tasks or remembering what they need to get done. This can make it challenging to learn new tasks and problem solve.
Those who experience cold sensitivity might find it difficult to be in a workplace where their colleagues may not feel the cold.
Depression symptoms can make it difficult to find motivation and purpose at work. Some people also experience anxiety which can increase if they feel worried about their ability to complete tasks at work.
It is not always obvious if someone has hypothyroidism.
While some people may prefer not to reveal their condition to their colleagues, others may find that explaining their needs and challenges to their colleagues can help create a more understanding workplace.
Can I continue working with hypothyroidism?
Many people with hypothyroidism continue to work and progress in their careers. With the right medication and workplace support, you may be able to continue in your current role.
If you are finding it difficult to keep up with the demands of your job, workplace adjustments may help you feel more confident. For example, working at home for part of the week or reducing your work hours from full time to part time.
Some people with hypothyroidism find it difficult to continue in their current role and may choose to change jobs or workplaces so that they can better manage their symptoms.
If you are worried about losing your job because of your symptoms, help is available. You could be eligible for WorkAssist, a government funded program which helps people like you stay in work and feel confident about doing their job.
Chat with APM today about how we can support you to keep working with hypothyroidism.
How to manage at work with hypothyroidism
In addition to following medical advice about the best ways to manage your condition, workplace adjustments can help you feel more comfortable and confident about doing your job.
Your employer may be eligible for financial support from the Government to pay for adjustments and equipment that will help you do your job better.
Everyone’s needs are different. At APM, we can help with assessing your workplace and accessing funding for workplace adjustments. We work closely with you and your employer to find solutions that make you feel empowered.
Workplace adjustments for hypothyroidism may include:
- Working from home. Remote work is becoming more commonplace and may help you manage fatigue. Depending on the nature of your job, you may be able to work home for some of the week (e.g. 2 days at home, 3 days in the office). Some jobs like copywriting, graphic design and customer support can be done from home completely.
- Flexible schedule. Your employer may allow you to have a flexible work schedule to help you manage your symptoms. For example, a later start time if you have trouble sleeping / waking up in the morning due to fatigue.
- Organisational tools. If you struggle with concentration or forgetfulness, organisational tools such as calendars, schedulers and to do lists can help you stay on top of your work tasks. Receiving written instructions from your boss may also help you remember what you need to do.
- Job restructuring. If you are finding it difficult to perform certain tasks, your employer may be able to restructure your role to help you manage better. For example, reducing physical tasks if muscle pain makes them difficult.
- Taking regular breaks. To manage fatigue and tiredness, it can help to take regular, scheduled breaks throughout the work day. Your employer may be able to provide a safe and quiet room where you can rest undisturbed.
- Ergonomic equipment. Ergonomic equipment like adjustable desks and supportive chairs can help with managing symptoms like fatigue, tiredness and weakness.
- Changes to your workstation. Your employer may be able to adjust your workstation to better suit your needs. For example, moving it closer to the bathroom or away from the air conditioner.
- Time off for appointments. Your employer may allow you to take time off to attend medical and mental health appointments to help you manage your condition. Thyroid levels may change over time. Attending regular checkups can help you manage your symptoms and get the best support possible.
- Mental health support. Depression and anxiety symptoms can make it challenging to cope in life and at work. At APM, we can help you access mental health support if you are experiencing depression, anxiety or stress related symptoms.
Finding a job when you have hypothyroidism
If you are having trouble finding a job or returning to work with hypothyroidism, support is available.
Hypothyroidism is one of APM’s supported conditions. You could be eligible for Disability Employment Services, a government funded program which helps people with illness, injury or disability find and keep a job.
When you register for Disability Employment Services with APM, a dedicated Employment Consultant will work closely with you to find suitable job opportunities, submit job applications and prepare for interviews.
If you want to change careers, job roles or workplaces but aren’t sure what’s possible, your Employment Consultant can help you identify job roles and career pathways that might be a good fit for you.
Our support goes beyond finding you a job. We also provide ongoing support so that you feel confident in your new workplace. We can assist with accessing workplace adjustments to help you perform well in your job.
Need a little help? Chat with an APM Employment Consultant today.
At APM, we believe everyone has the right to work in a safe and supportive environment and experience the benefits of having a job.
If you are having trouble finding a job or managing in the workplace, chat with us today about how we can help you find meaningful work and thrive in the workplace.