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I am fortunate, I work for a large and stable company and in general, management is fair, I would even say more compassionate than not.

Since the beginning of the year, I've had an issue with chronic pain, nothing completely debilitating, just a constant 2/10 on the pain scale no matter what I do. We've done all sorts of tests and it's nothing obvious. I was told to stick to PT and that it's something I may have to learn to live with. While it's never agonizing, it's unrelenting and distracting. I can still do my work, but I am a fraction as efficient as I was before. It's brought on some depression and anxiety along with the pain.

Focusing on deep programming tasks is hard. I am extremely worried about my future, I had considered myself a 'lifer' at this company, have always been one of the better ranked members of my team and now all of that is in question for me.

How can I protect myself - is it best to be upfront about my struggles and ask to work a reduced load for awhile, hoping I can figure this out. I know I am still valuable to the company, I have knowledge and know-how that they value, I just want this to play out fairly and not derail my career. I understand that my health is not my employer's issue, but what are good strategies to take here?

  • I'm sorry for your troubles; what country are you in? The protections available to you will vary considerably... – Philip Kendall Jun 2 at 16:39
  • @PhilipKendall US – FallingToPieces Jun 2 at 16:39
  • Does the condition qualify as a disability in your state? – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 2 at 16:50
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    I'm in this situation too. I discussed it with my boss candidly, and learned to manage with ergonomics, breaks, breathing, and better home habits. You'll probably find that you are valuable to the company even at reduced efficiency. – Michael McFarlane Jun 2 at 17:51
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    @FallingToPieces - You should find a different GP, you shouldn’t have to try to pull your own teeth, to get your GP to diagnose what’s going on. – Donald Jun 3 at 0:12
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It's best to be upfront about your struggles. If it is as bad as you say, your boss will notice regardless and may assume worse things.

I do not advise asking for something as drastic as a reduced workload to start because you should step through smaller potential solutions first, and a reduced workload may compound your anxiety and depression. Rather, ask for understanding; your management is compassionate after all. Let your boss make suggestions and you may find some you had not thought of. Also, I expect a large and stable company to have many employees and to try to retain them; you're likely not the only one who has gone through this, so you may be able to find help. In any event, given your post, I expect that you will be told you are a valuable employee even at reduced efficiency, which I hope should allay your anxiety to some degree.

I expect with some adjustments in areas like ergonomics and habits that you will be able to recover your efficiency close to what it used to be. But, speaking from experience with chronic pain, do not set your expectation to be the full 100%. You'll still have distractions, and if you didn't, you're still getting older. The key is to optimize not live up to history.

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    Note, I'm sticking to the question which is about approaching management. If you want to talk about managing chronic pain, you can reach out to me privately. If you're interested I'll provide a method. – Michael McFarlane Jun 4 at 18:30
  • Thank you for your advice and answer. I will leave the question open to see if anyone else has more to contribute, but will accept the answer tomorrow. – FallingToPieces Jun 5 at 18:08
  • Accepted - thank you @Michael McFarlane - I will follow your advice. I wish you the best. – FallingToPieces Jun 8 at 18:23

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