Updated 28 February 2018

Managing diabetes in the workplace

Sponsored: Letting key people that you work with know that you have diabetes can be a great help in case of an emergency.


Diabetes does not have to limit who you are or what you are able to accomplish. In fact, having this condition means that you have a lot to offer others.

By talking about diabetes with family, friends or people at the office, you can help them better understand the complications you face each day, while gaining their respect and support.

Having said that, diabetes is 24/7 and for those of us who take care of diabetes every day, life can be complicated - a lot more complicated than a person who doesn't have diabetes.

Every item you eat, every activity you perform and even just vegging in front of the TV requires consideration, foresight and decisions - all of the time.

Unfortunately, the same applies when you go to work every day. 

Taking diabetes to work

It is not likely to come up in conversation around the office water cooler: “Hey, I have diabetes.” But letting key people that you work with know that you have diabetes can be a great help in case of an emergency, while helping them understand that having diabetes makes you no different from anyone else.

Here are some tips for managing your diabetes at work:

Plan to prevent highs and lows in the first place. This may mean checking your blood sugar more often so you can treat early and avoid downtime. Pack your own lunch or snacks to help you through the day, so you don't have to just eat what's nearby.

And try to adhere to the spirit of the rules, rather than break them entirely. For example, if snacks aren't normally allowed in your work area, ask about the possibility of eating nuts, an energy bar or something similarly discreet and tidy that won't cause a spike in your numbers.

Recognise what stresses you out. Your numbers are more likely to run high when you're stressed,1 so if you know that a specific manager, task or co-worker amps you up, you can plan to watch your numbers. Of course, ongoing stress (from, say, a boss who isn't supportive) can also affect your sleep, desire to eat well and motivation to exercise.1 Do your best to tune into the real causes of stress at work.

Think about putting it all out in the open. People don't learn until someone teaches them. This may not be right for everyone, but sharing how you test, inject or pump, calculate meals, and work hard every day to manage diabetes may help people understand why breaks or occasional rests are needed.

Rather than seeing your snack as "special treatment", they may recognise it as part of your 24/7 regimen. However, remember that you also do not have to tell anyone if you are not comfortable. While most employers today are used to dealing with employees who have diabetes or other special needs, you are not obligated to share this information.

Finally, if it really seems you are in a workplace that is detrimental to your diabetes or unsupportive of your condition then think about making a move. Jobs can be hard to come by, but it's not worth risking long-term problems to stay in a not-so-diabetes-friendly workplace. Moving on wouldn't just help you physically - it could benefit your emotional well-being and your life outside of work, too.

For more information, please contact your healthcare professional.

1WebMD. Less Stress Can Help Lower Blood Sugar. Mental health can affect how your body manages diabetes. Accessed December 13, 2017.

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Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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