Becca: What are some of the main health related barriers and symptoms people with MS experience which makes it harder for them to stay in or remain in work?
Dr Helen Ford, Consultant Neurologist: In terms of MS symptoms, I think fatigue is one of the issues that can be very problematic and obviously there are issues around managing fatigue. And I think with a good employer or, you know, a line manager, then pacing yourself, looking at regular breaks, looking at how your work pattern is, so sometimes people might change the length of the day they work or when they commute to work or, you know, different things that take pressure off and reduce some of the fatigue.
Obviously mobility issues can be a problem, so access to work is an issue for some people, and also, for instance, where their work station is or if they’re in one part of the building that’s not as accessible as another part of their situation.
And access ways as well, things like access to a toilet if you have urinary frequency or urgency, that can be important. But these are all things that an employer can help the person with MS to deal with in the workplace. The other thing is around cognitive issues, and that’s things like multi-tasking or distraction can be quite difficult to manage, and that’s also something that perhaps some employers might not really realise that actually, being able to focus on a task without lots of distraction can make you much more productive.
Becca: You mentioned in there about the relationship with line managers, and how important would you say that relationship is to build while you’re disclosing or, you know?
Dr Helen Ford: Yes, I think it’s really crucial actually, and I mean there is some research around how much your line manager’s attitude can affect life in the workplace. So it’s really important to try to build that relationship and to help your employer understand MS, because I think the understanding of MS in the general public isn’t great.
There is some useful information for employers and I think it’s always useful, and I suggest to people, if for instance fatigue is their main problem, to provide the employer with some written information about fatigue and MS or the employer’s pack so that they get more understanding. I was going to say especially for small employers, but for all employers really.
Becca: That’s helpful, thank you.
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