Having a neurological condition may affect your working life, but it's often possible to find solutions to overcome the problems you may face. This article looks at coping with work if you have a neurological condition, and explores what others have done to make their working life easier.
Taking things slowly
You may be thinking about going back to work after taking time off while you were ill. Many people find it helpful to go back part-time or for a few hours each week before returning to full-time work.
Andy says: "After my subarachnoid haemorrhage, my company let me gradually re-acclimatise myself into the workplace, increasing hours gradually over several weeks - and they've now agreed that I can work reduced hours permanently. My rationale is that having nearly died, I wanted the chance to make the most of life, which means working a bit less! Money isn't important, quality time is."
Changes in your ability
There may be changes in your mental and / or physical abilities, and you may not be able to do all the things you previously could. This may be a temporary or a permanent change.
"I have gone from typing 70 words per minute at high accuracy to around 30 words with bad accuracy!" says Ann-Marie, who had a subarachnoid haemorrhage and went back to work after 6 months.
With time, and flexible working, however, she has made the transition, initially working part time hours and working 1 day from home.
"I guess that I probably used work as my rehab – it was the quickest way to get my brain working properly again," she says. "It’s only really since January 2010 that I really felt that I was getting back to normal! I still get very tired, most of my colleagues have known me for a long time so are used to it. The contract that I work for recently got transferred to another company and I’m pleased to say that no-one from the new company has noticed that there’s anything wrong – which is wonderful!"
Memory prompts are essential for Ann-Marie: "I still need to write everything down and have notes everywhere, including on my phone with alarms to remind me to do things."
Opportunity for change
It might be that a change of career is a good idea for you, especially if your previous job was very physical or stressful.
"I had to give up my management career, but I started my own business which gives me the freedom to work from home and I can work around those days when I'm not feeling 100%," says Yvonne, who had a subarachnoid haemorrhage in 2003.
This may even be the opportunity for you to do something you've always wanted to.
"They say that when one door closes another opens," says John, who had a stroke 10 years ago. "I have for a number of years wanted to work in IT and because of my stroke I lost my HGV licence. My local Jobcentre found me work based training in Web Development. After 10 years of recovery and 5 house moves, I now work full time as a Web Developer."
Worried about your job, or need help finding a job?
Although the stories in this article are largely positive, we know that it's not always easy coping with the pressures of work when you have a neurological condition, and many employers are unaware of the ways in which your condition might affect your work, or how they could help you.
"Although my company seemed to be quite supportive, I did have problems with HR who never understood what I had gone through," says Ann-Marie.
The Brain Charity offers Employment and Welfare Benefits advice that could help you. There's also information available for employers, to help them make changes and understand your condition better. If you aren't yet ready to work, or you have questions about benefits, The Brain Charity can also help you.
The Shaw Trust can offer help if you have a disability or illness and are looking for work or are already working but would like extra support.
Your rights at work
For information about your rights at work, check the Gov.UK website. It includes information for disabled people on:
- Looking for work
- Support while in work, including if you are in work and become disabled
- Your employment rights
The Citizens Advice Bureau also has some useful information: