I'm starting a prescription medicine that I'll have to take twice during the work day, at 10am and 3pm. I love my open office so I don't intend for this to devolve into a rant on them, but I don't know where I should go to take my meds. I've never seen anyone else do this here and I'm sure there must be people who have to. We have a shared kitchen/lounge but I'd feel uncomfortable since it's still out in the open. I've thought about taking them to the bathroom but that feels really weird and a little gross. Should I just try to do it discreetly at my desk?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Dec 9 at 2:24
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    Is the medication delivered as a pill or injection, or some other more involved method? – Kent A. Dec 9 at 14:22
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    There is no way this question is off-topic. In fact, this could be a model question for the site. – Time4Tea Dec 9 at 17:38
  • For how long will you have to take these meds? Just a few weeks, or forever? – Mawg Dec 11 at 8:19

10 Answers 10

I work in an open office setting where all of my co-workers just do it at their desk.

It's a prescribed medication, you aren't doing anything wrong and there is no need to hide it. If someone asks what it is, you can either tell them (if you feel comfortable doing so) or just say "it's my medication" and leave it at that.

You may want to check with your supervisor. Keep in mind they have no right to know what medication you are taking. Just ask them if the desk is acceptable in your workplace, or if there is a designated medical area. If there is a designated medical area for taking prescriptions, you should adhere to that. If not, your desk is just fine.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Dec 9 at 2:25

The meta question here would be "what's a good place to do something private at work". Could be meds, could be a personal phone call, could be attending to a bodily need, could be doing your yoga.

The answer depends on what you have available. Options are

  1. Grab a conference or meeting room.
  2. Some work places have "phone booths" which are specifically designed to make phone calls. Doesn't matter if the phone calls are for work, private or no phone call at all
  3. Shower rooms, locker rooms or bathroom. In my place it's not uncommon for people to brush their teeth after lunch. I don't see why taking meds would be any different. We have decent bathrooms though.
  4. Lab or a work space that you regular use but that's not used by other people a lot.

The key here is that you are NOT doing anything wrong, but you are doing something private, which is perfectly fine but not anyone else's business. That's a perfectly normal thing and happens daily in pretty much every workplace.

  • I disagree, as it depends on the company and culture. I don't do an entire sequence, but I'm at my desk 40-50 hours every week or more and i stretch at my desk. Sometimes I stand, too. – RoboBear Dec 7 at 22:35
  • @JoeStrazzere I can think of some co-workers where it would be hard to tell if they were doing yoga or actually working. Yoga would be no more "intrusive" than the guy who often fell asleep (and snored) after lunch! – alephzero Dec 8 at 12:47
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    I would strongly disagree with "something private: Meds, bodily needs, yoga, private call"... I've ordered them! "Meds" is non-negotiable, gotta be taken at a certain time. "Private call" has no place in an office. "Bodily needs" depends what you mean (your horniness distracting you, or your intestines playing up?), but if we're talking sensibly then not negotiable either. Now, NOBODY in your open plan office should be subjected to someone grunting through their yoga poses; especially if they get sweaty and/or farty as many do. I need sports to keep relatively levelheaded but that's my time. – user3445853 Dec 10 at 11:03

@Borgh I work with a few really nosy people. Like they'll stand behind you without you knowing and read your email over your shoulder. – PascLeRasc 1 min ago

This complicates matters. I assume that they are also the people who will happily dive into the depths of your personal health problems?

i'd suggest getting one of those nondescript containers with the days of the week on them (also great for just reminding you of when to take the medicine) so they can't read the label and then taking the medicine in the kitchen. If someone happens to be there you can always just grab a glass of water and return to your cubicle and take the medicine there.

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    One good disguise is an opaque vitamin container. You can even do two different types as a reason for why you are taking them 2x day. People will just assume you're trying to stay healthy. – kapow Dec 7 at 18:49
  • And will comment when you "give up on your vitamins" after week or two :-) – Mawg Dec 11 at 8:18

I work in a cubical work space and as far as people taking med's most just have them in their desk and take them when they need them. No one complains and its never been something people scoff over so I would say its fine to just take your med's at your desk.

That said I am also diabetic and I take insulin shots so I often take my syringe and bottles into the restroom (the best place if you are concerned about nosy people IMO) and give myself shots in there as I don't think people want to see me lift my shirt lol.

As long as its just pills you can take with water or food you should be fine to take them as you need them at your desk.

Shots/Inhaler and such

If you want privacy while using a medical device such as a syringe or inhaler, talk to your Human Resources department or personnel director.

  • They should be trained to respect your privacy both professionally and legally (to various degrees).
  • And they should be able to suggest a private location. You are not likely the first with this issue.
  • They can note in your records that you will be taking legal medication on-site. This is valuable in case of future rumors about you being a secret junkie.

Pills

As others suggested, keep pills in couple of innocuous vitamin bottles in your purse or bag. Take the pills quietly at your desk, without hiding it. If anyone asks, tell them Vitamin D (small tablet or gel pill) or Vitamin E or Magnesium (large tablet or gel pill) to quell their nosy curiosity.

You do not owe your co-workers any true explanation of your own medical condition, if it does not affect your job performance nor human safety.

And for pills too, it may be worthwhile in some situations to formally advise your Human Resources department that you will be taking medication on-site. I would not discuss it with my supervisor/manager if it does not interfere with duties.

  • Disguising the medication as nutritional supplements may be a really bad idea! Consider what happens if someone else takes your heart medication thinking it's just vitamins. Or you are subjected to a drug test that the medication causes to come back positive. – Rogem Dec 9 at 12:17
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    @Rogem Which is why why I said to keep it within your own bag or purse. – Basil Bourque Dec 9 at 17:12

I'm starting a prescription medicine that I'll have to take twice during the work day, at 10am and 3pm. I love my open office so I don't intend for this to devolve into a rant on them, but I don't know where I should go to take my meds. I've never seen anyone else do this here and I'm sure there must be people who have to.

This part is important.

There are all sorts of reasons why people may need a few minutes of privacy in a workplace: prayer, first aid, sensitive conversations, pumping breast milk, etc. etc. This need should be identified and addressed when planning the workplace. If your workplace doesn't have a suitable private space, then it needs one. (If it does, then you just need to know where it is.)

Either way, the first step of the solution is to talk to somebody else - either your manager or a sensible co-worker.

"Hey, do we have a space that staff can use when we need privacy? [Optionally:] I need to take some medication and I'd rather not do it at my deck.

If answer is "no", then something along the lines of:

"Can we make one, then? I'm sure I'm not the only person here who needs that occasionally."

For your specific situation, there are ways to disguise what pills you're taking. But that's more of a work-around than a proper fix; it's better to address the underlying issue and solve the problem for everybody.

I, too, work in an open environment, "Agile Space" as we call it. After reading your comments and explanations as to why you don't want to take your meds because of "really nosy people" there is really only one solution:You must assert yourself in your office and take your pills with pride.

If, and apparently when, your coworkers ask questions simply respond that you are taking your meds, and if they ask more questions tell them politely but firmly that "They're for my health." If you keep having issues of them prying into your life you can simply tell them you would rather not discuss it.

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    Just give them a very sanctimonious speech about how everyone should be taking probiotics. – Harper Dec 8 at 0:40
  • ^ The longer and more verbose the speech the more people will never want to ask again – Richard Dec 10 at 15:53

Depending on your country you're usually allowed to have short breaks during the day.

If you're truly uncomfortable taking medication in the office or don't want others to know, you could use those breaks to take them at another (private) location of your choosing.

As has been said though, it usually is no big deal.

If it is something completely innocuous like antibiotics or anti-allergy medicine, I would take them at your desk. You could even leave the pack of medicine sitting at your desk. That way you go full circle.

If it is something you may not wish to share with everyone (like antidepressants, for example - not to imply that that is something to be ashamed of, but you may still not want to share it), then just go to the bathroom if you do not want people to know about it.

If they are really nosey and you don't care about their opinion (i wouldn't), just say "it's garlic, good for your health and keeps vampires away! Unfortunatelly it doesn't affect nosey coworkers!".

I work with Mr. Supernosey for a whole year and have pills lying around and take them twice a day and he never asked or mentioned them. So if yours do, they are a special kind of nosey and need to be dealt with accordingly.

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