Managing Your Diabetes at the Office

April 23, 2019

Diabetic man tests blood at work
Renée Bacher

More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which means if you are trying to do a good job of managing your diabetes at work, you are not alone.

From office parties with sugary snacks in the break room to long hours sitting at a desk, managing your diabetes at work can be challenging. Here are some rules to live by when you have diabetes in the office environment:

Keep Special Snacks in Your Desk for Special Occasions

Diabetes and work can be difficult, particularly on special occasions when there is birthday cake or pizza in the break room, and everybody may be able to have it but you. For times like these, keep some diabetic-friendly candy in your desk that you don't break into unless everyone else is eating cake. Or, if there's a freezer above the fridge in the break room, and you trust that your coworkers won't take your treats, bake some diabetic-friendly cake or cookies and keep them there at the ready for microwaving when it's office party time. And make sure you always pack healthy, high-protein, diabetic-friendly snacks to bring to the office each day. These may include a hard-boiled egg, plain yogurt with fresh berries, a cheese stick and cut up vegetables with hummus.

Consider Investing in a Continuous Glucose Monitor

Last spring, the FDA approved the Eversense Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), a system that is good for 90 days and uses a sensor implanted under the skin to monitor glucose levels using light-based technology and a mobile app to alert you when your blood sugar levels are too high or low.

The FDA compared the CGM's effectiveness to that of a laboratory-based glucose analyzer and adverse effects were less than 1 percent. In a press release, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. said technologies like this one allow patients to gain better control over their health. "'This approval of a more seamless digital system that gives patients the ability to effectively manage a chronic disease like diabetes is a vivid illustration of the potential for these mobile platforms,'" he said.

Talk to your doctor about whether a CGM may be right for you, and whether it can make diabetes and work less daunting.

Stay Active

It's important for everyone to exercise in order to stay fit, but it's especially important for diabetics, as being active can help keep your blood sugar level where it needs to be. This doesn't mean you need to train for a triathlon or spend hours at the gym. But it does mean you need to sit less and move more. If you do not have neuropathy in your feet or legs, ask your supervisor if you can use a standing desk converter or desk bike at work to help minimize hours on end of sitting. Take the stairs. Park in the spot farthest from your office's front door. If you can pace around the office while you talk on the phone, every step you take counts. If your smart phone has a built in step counter, do whatever you can to make sure you get in 8,000 steps per day, even if that means getting off the train one stop sooner and walking the rest of the way.

Know Your Rights

Depending on the severity of your diabetes, you have the right to certain reasonable accommodations in the work place and you may wish to let human resources, or at least your immediate supervisor, know about your condition. According to the American Diabetes Association, these accommodations may include the ability to:

  • Test your blood glucose in a location with privacy
  • Eat a snack if your blood sugar is low
  • Take your medication in a location with privacy
  • Use the bathroom frequently
  • Store food or insulin nearby
  • Take a rest in a location with privacy if your blood sugar is not stabilized
  • Take medical leave if you need treatment, training in how to manage your diabetes or time to recuperate
  • Work hours that allow you enough rest to manage your disease and remain healthy
  • Sit while working if you have diabetic neuropathy, which can damage the nerves in your legs and feet
  • Use a large screen computer if you have diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can affect your vision

Support Groups

Support groups abound for an abundance of health conditions and diabetes is no exception. On Facebook alone, there are diabetes support groups with thousands of members from around the world sharing recipes and all kinds of tips that may be helpful to managing your diabetes at work. If you're comfortable sharing your diabetes status with coworkers, you may even find others with diabetes and consider getting together as a group now and then over a diabetes-friendly lunch.

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