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Should I keep working?

Deciding whether to continue working isn't an easy decision for anyone. You'll need to weigh up a number of factors, including:

  • your reasons for working
  • your present circumstances
  • your options
  • your finances.

Remember that you'll always have options. Try to always look at your options positively and with a mind-set of what you can do and are good at, as much as what you now sometimes struggle with.

Don't make a hasty decision about something as important as work. You may be going through a particularly difficult time with your arthritis or with your job, but you should try and stay positive – things may improve given time and patience. It can be much harder to get back into work, once you leave your job, especially if you have a period of unemployment. Get advice and support first to help you stay in work.

Before you make a decision, you need to be clear in your mind about two important questions:

  1. Do I want to work?
  2. Do I need to work?

Most people work not only for money, but also because working provides a sense of achievement, structure to the day, social contact and social status. However, these things aren't of equal importance to everyone. Juggling home and work is only going to be rewarding if you want to work. However, for many people there's the financial reality of needing to work.

Considering your options

So, what are your options if you want and need to work? Have you looked at simple solutions, discussed the difficulties with your colleagues but still can't imagine continuing in the same job? Here are some options and questions you could think through and who you might be able to talk to about them:

  • Is your arthritis, joint pain or related condition likely to get better or worse?
    • healthcare professional
  • What treatment options are there, and are they likely to be successful?
    • healthcare professional
  • Can you do any tasks at work differently to take the strain off joints? Are there any labour-saving gadgets or equipment that will help?
    • employer
    • occupational therapist
    • supportive colleagues
  • Would more help at home take the pressure off you? (for example, help with housework or shopping)
    • partner
    • family
    • friends
  • Can you do some key tasks around the home differently, or with labour-saving gadgets or equipment, to take the strain off key joints?
    • occupational therapist
  • Can you work fewer hours or job share?
    • partner
    • family
    • employer – HR department and line manager
    • occupational therapist
    • Disability Employment Advisor
  • Can you change your job within your current organisation? – same as above
  • Can you work from home for at least some of the week? – same as above
  • Can you retrain for other work – perhaps lighter work?
    • employer
    • careers service
    • Disability Employment Advisor
  • Phased return to work
    • employer
    • occupational therapist
    • Disability Employment Advisor
    • GP or other relevant healthcare professional

You could perhaps go through the questions and options outlined above, making notes and gathering information as you go. It might be a good idea to assess your financial situation before you make any decision.

Try to find someone you can trust, and who can be objective, to talk it over with. It's worth seeking the advice of an occupational therapist. Also, you could find out what your partner and family think.

Financial considerations

Here are some financial considerations and questions to take into account, and ideas of people you might be able to discuss them with:

  • Check your contract or terms of employment
    • HR department at work
  • Do you have permanent health insurance cover?
    • HR department at work
    • financial advisor
  • What is your sick leave entitlement?
    • HR department at work
  • How much do you/your family need to live on?
    • partner
    • family
  • What benefits would you be eligible for if you reduced your hours/stopped working?
  • Can you take early retirement on health grounds?
    • HR department at work
    • financial advisor

The final answer may not be perfect, but it may be a positive one based on all of the best information and advice you can gather. It needs to be the right decision for you, taken at the right time, and supported by those around you.

Planning for retirement

If you do decide that you have reached the time to stop doing paid employment, there are plenty of fun, exciting and worthwhile ventures to which you can apply your skills and talents.

Why not take up a voluntary role? This will allow you to make a very positive contribution to something close to your heart, and you'll meet new people. There are organisations such as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) which can help you find a volunteering role suitable for you. There are numerous charities which can also offer volunteering roles.

Stopping paid employment is a big transition and it's important to plan carefully, so that you adjust well to the change in your circumstances. Planning things to do once you stop doing paid work can make a big difference.

You might find that you're in a position to help care for an elderly relative, friend or neighbour, which can be a very rewarding and valuable thing to do.

Are there any local clubs or organisations that would be of interest to you? Is there a sport or past-time you have long been interested in which you'd like to take up? Have you thought of taking up, or rekindling any of the following interests?:

  • swimming
  • bowls
  • cooking
  • art
  • computer technology
  • local history
  • travelling
  • studying
  • walking
  • gardening.

The options are endless.

When someone finishes their working life, it can feel a bit emotional and daunting at times, but it can be the start of a very exciting new chapter. The more physically and socially active you remain, the more you'll get out of life.

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.