In the Workplace

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can raise difficult issues in the workplace. Communication is key: whether it is letting co-workers and managers know about the disease, or preparing the work environment to ease a person's disability.

Like friend and family relationships, work relationships require a certain amount of communication and honesty. Co-workers may be curious about visible lesions, and employers may wonder how the psoriasis might affect a person's work. Because of this, it's important for people with psoriasis to understand their disease, their employment rights and their resources in the workplace. If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, we can help.

Tips for workplace communication

Plan ahead. Plan carefully how and when to discuss your psoriasis with co-workers or supervisors. Education about psoriasis and its symptoms can help change their perceptions and expectations of people with psoriasis. Begin by researching all the changes that could make your job as productive as possible.

Meet with your manager. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor at a time when neither of you is under pressure. Describe simply and plainly the ways your psoriasis and/or your psoriatic arthritis may affect your work. The goal is not to generate sympathy, but to find ways to resolve the problem that will benefit the company, your co-workers and yourself.

Offer alternatives. Be prepared to offer suggestions for possible changes, such as using assistive devices. Assistive devices are items you may need to help you do your job more easily. Chances are any changes you may need will not cost much. Tax deductions and/or tax credits may be available to certain employers who provide accommodations and/or jobs for people with disabilities.

Communicate with your co-workers. Understand that co-workers can become resentful if they feel you are not doing your share of the work. Explain to them how the psoriasis affects your ability to work, but that you are making reasonable accommodations. Learn more about healthy communication techniques.

Listen to your body. You may be tempted to "work through the pain" of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but overdoing it can trigger exhaustion, and potentially worsen the flare. Instead, set priorities and pace yourself. List your tasks in order of importance, and do the most important ones while you feel strongest and most energetic.

Create a healthy work environment. Arrange your area to limit the amount of lifting, reaching, carrying, holding or walking. Vary activities to avoid sitting in one position or repeating one action for too long. Go to bed at a regular time and get enough rest to carry you through the next day.

Develop a support network. Other people in the workplace may have physical disabilities and can offer support and understanding. Learn more about the National Psoriasis Foundation's support groups.

Maintain a positive attitude. Remember that you're allowed to have low-energy days, but that you're in control of how you relate to the disease. Share your thoughts with other people with psoriasis on the National Psoriasis Foundation's message boards.

If your coworker has psoriasis

Those who work with people who have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis need to understand that the disease affects people in different ways. Some people may not have any difficulty, while others, particularly those with psoriatic arthritis, may have special needs or require time off work for medical appointments.

As with any medical condition, communication is key to understanding how the person is affected. Here are some tips on easily talking with people about how psoriasis affects them:

Gently bring up the subject if it relates to the person's job. While it can be a sensitive subject, it is important for the person to realize how it can affect their performance. For example, psoriatic arthritis can make physical labor difficult, and psoriasis flares on the hands can make typing painful.

Understand that they may try to overcompensate. People with psoriasis may overdo it at times because they may worry about how the condition is perceived. This can trigger a cycle of exhaustion. Let them know that the work is the main thing, and that as long as mutually agreed-upon goals are met, there is no need to overcompensate.

Offer to help with accommodations. A person with disabling psoriatic arthritis may not know that special tools can ease the physical strain.

Work out a schedule when the person has appointments. Some people with psoriasis may need to see their physician weekly. Offer to support them with flexible time or telecommuting arrangements.

Understand that psoriasis is only one part of them. Their performance is the key factor—not the disease. Everyone has off days, and people with psoriasis are no exception.