When Lois started her new job at Hinckley & Bosworth Council in 2014, she was ready for a new challenge. But several years into her role, an urgent hospital-stay changed things forever – at home and at work.

“For 6 years, I’d struggled with painful cramps and urgently needing the loo, and it was diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It became so bad that I was planning everything around making it to the toilet in time. Then, my health deteriorated. I was so weak, I couldn’t eat anything. I was going to the loo 15 times a day and passing blood. Days later I was admitted to hospital. After two weeks, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was so relieved to be diagnosed, but nervous about going back to work. I didn’t know how the condition would affect me long-term and what that meant for my career, and it was overwhelming. I was worried about urgently needing to use the toilet at work, or not making it in time.”

Fortunately, Lois’ workplace was committed to helping her get back to work at her own pace and supporting her in any way they could. Once she had begun to feel better from her initial flare-up, her manager, Gary, arranged an occupational health assessment to help Lois figure out what she would need. This led to a ‘phased return’, meaning she gradually built up her hours over several weeks, working in the office and from home.

Gary said, “it was all about making small tweaks that would benefit Lois and give her the confidence to be able to work to the maximum of her ability. Lois wanted to be back in the office as much as she could, so we did everything to make it happen”.

Lois’s workspace was moved to a desk closer to the accessible toilet, where a cupboard for her to keep supplies and medication was installed. She worked from home on days when fatigue and joint pain were particularly bad and had time off after her weekly medication infusions.

“I feel so lucky because these adjustments have given me the confidence and determination to work in the office. It shows how my workplace can keep someone with an invisible illness in work and feeling good about it. The key was being open and honest with my manager, even though it can feel embarrassing and difficult.”

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, Lois’ boss arranged for her to work from home as some of her medications mean she is more vulnerable to coronavirus. “Although I don’t want to work from home forever, I can manage my condition very well at home, and my manager has been very supportive.”

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