Work Accommodations for Fibromyalgia with Julie Hamilton
Special Requests You Can Make to Make Work Work for You and Your Fibromyalgia
- What are special work accommodations?
- When to talk to your boss about special work accommodations, what you should say, and what you should NEVER say.
- Just because you ask for it, isn’t a guarantee. HOW to have a conversation with your boss that will increase your ability to work together and accomplish your mutual goals.
- How you can avoid disciplinary action, a poor performance evaluation, or termination, even if your fibromyalgia flares are holding you back.
- You CAN keep your job, advance your career, and feel good while doing it.
Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of your work due to your fibromyalgia? There is a big difference between not being able to do your job and needing a little help to accomplish certain tasks. In this episode, Julie Hamilton discusses how to ask for special accommodations at work, before things get so bad that you’re faced with disciplinary action or even termination. Before you think about filing for disability, consider how small changes can make a big impact on your performance and job satisfaction.
About Julie Hamilton
Julie Hamilton is a Certified Fibromyalgia Coach, Life Coach and Youth Life Coach. She has over 20 years experience as a Human Resources Director and Manager, with the last nine years in healthcare. In her role as an HR Director and Manager, she educated her coworkers, particularly nursing professionals, on the treatment and management of living with fibromyalgia.
Julie has worked with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) since its inception in 1993, knows the requirements, and can effectively advise individuals on the necessities when working with their employer when they have a chronic disease. Julie’s specialty is helping young professionals who are frustrated with their health to excel in their career and regain their active social lives.
To schedule a consultation with Julie, visit FindAFibroCoach.com
Links & Resources
- Get free copies of Tami’s books here
- Get the HR tool kit you can print out or email to your HR department to educate them on fibromyalgia. Email Julie directly at JHamilton@CoachingPI.com for a copy.
- Julie also has an assessment tool to help you understand whether or not you need to request special work accommodations, if you need to use the FMLA, or if you need to file for disability. You can get that assessment on Julie’s website: CoachingPI.com.
You are listening to the Fibromyalgia Podcast with Tami Stackelhouse, Episode 15.
Welcome to the Fibromyalgia Podcast! I’m your Coach, Tami Stackelhouse.
Today we continue with part two of the interview that I have done with Julie Hamilton about special work accommodations. Last time we discussed the Family Medical Leave Act. So if you are curious about how to use the Family Medical Leave Act with your fibromyalgia, I encourage you to go back and check out the last episode, Episode 14. Julie has a lot of information, including a few special goodies for you, like her FMLA Checklist to help make sure that you don’t miss any of the important deadlines using the Family Medical Leave Act.
In this episode, we are going to be discussing special work accommodations. There was just too much information that Julie had. I knew we could not cover it all in one podcast episode — and have it be a reasonable length for fibro brains to absorb it all. So, we have split this up into two separate interviews, recorded on the same day.
This time Julie is talking about special work accommodations. She’s also going to be discussing how to have some of those conversations with your bosses and coworkers, what to say in an interview, when to talk to your boss about special accommodations, and what to say or what not to say. We’re going to be talking about all of those things *in addition* to some of the special requests that you can make to make work work for you.
[02:33] Now, just as a quick introduction, in case you missed last week’s episode, Julie Hamilton is a certified Fibromyalgia Coach. In fact, she graduated from the very first class that I taught at the International Fibromyalgia Coaching Institute. She graduated in January 2016 and joined that very first class that I taught in 2015. She is also a Certified Life Coach and a Youth Life Coach.
[03:05] Her background is actually as a Human Resources Director/Manager, and she has done that for over 20 years, with the last 9 years being in healthcare. This is why I have invited Julie to speak with us. This is truly her area of expertise, and there honestly isn’t anybody that I know [who is] more knowledgeable about these two particular topics than Julie. She has actually worked with the Family Medical Leave Act since its inception, back in the early 90s, and has educated co-workers, particularly nursing professionals, on the treatment and management of living with fibromyalgia.
[03:50] Her clients are usually young professionals who are frustrated with their health, and Julie helps them to excel in their careers again and regain their active social lives. During her career as an HR Director/Manager, she worked coaching and counseling various employees. She developed and led mentor groups, managed employees, did training and development within several different organizations, and, as you will hear in this episode, she has also developed an HR tool kit that employees and HR professionals can use to understand fibromyalgia better, see how it shows up in the lives of employees, and what kind of accommodations can make life easier for those of us with fibromyalgia.
[04:50] In this episode, Julie is going to be talking about some other goodies she’s got for you as well. Be listening for that and remember that we have all of these details in the show notes and in the transcript at FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/15. This is episode 15 and at the end of my interview with Julie, I will just recap all of those materials for you again. Don’t worry about trying to take notes while you’re listening to the interview. Just absorb what Julie has to say, and at the end we will go over what those resources are. Again, I will tell you how you can connect with Julie if you’re interested in her assessment, her consultations or potentially even working with Julie to help get some of these special work accommodations for you at your job.
[05:44] TS — All right, welcome back everybody! I am continuing my talk with Julie Hamilton, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about special work accommodations.
If you missed the last episode, Episode 14 was all about the Family Medical Leave Act and how you can use that with fibromyalgia. This episode is all about special work accommodations. But, before we dive into that, welcome back Julie… or I should say thanks for staying here, because we’re recording these all together!
[06:21] TS — So, I just want to take a brief second… I meant to do this on the last episode and we forgot, because I was so excited to dive into this stuff. Julie has just traveled by car clear across country! And I want her to share just a little bit about that with you because part of what I want this podcast to be all about is showing you what is possible. I think you guys know in May I did a crazy… like, I was actually traveling more than I was home. Julie actually has me beat over the last four weeks or so. I went to five states in four weeks, but Julie’s got me WAY beat. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
[07:14] JH — Well, I’m going to go back from March 1st to today. I’ve been in 17 states, four time zones, and I’ve done two temporary moves.
[07:28] TS — Oh Wow! Yeah. Now, I know that part of the reason for some of those trips were for fun things. You had kiddos graduating and some things like that. But some of it was also actually looking for a good place where your body is going to be happy. You want to talk about that just a little?
[07:50] JH — I had one son graduate in Virginia and one son graduate in Nebraska. We took a family trip to Boston, saw four states there. And my daughter got into Grad school, so I went apartment hunting in Wyoming with her. And amongst that, my permanent home is in Ohio, and it doesn’t agree with my fibro body. So, I did a three month stint in Nebraska, because that’s where I’m from, to see if that would help.
And now I’m in Arizona — in, yes, the heat — to see if I can tolerate this and see if this is better. Everybody’s like, “Why would you go to Arizona in the summer? That’s the worst.” Well, you know, if you’re going to live here, you’re going to be here twelve months. Well, I know I can do March through May — not March but September. That’s another brain fog! [I know I can do] September through May, because I’ve visited a lot during that time. But I didn’t know about June, July and August. So, for me, it’s a perfect time to find out if my body can tolerate this.
[09:00] TS — Right. Because if you can do these few months, then the rest will be a piece of cake.
[09:04] JH — Exactly.
[09:06] TS — Yes. And I think it’s awesome that you’re trying this out. I wish more fibro people would listen to their bodies that way and try crazy things like moving across the country to see if it helps them feel better. Because, really guys, you only get one life and you might as well have it be a life where you are getting to LIVE, you know, instead of just suffering through it.
[09:33] JH — Right. And you know, I am blessed. I have a job that I can do from anywhere. And my husband’s job — he travels every week, so we just need to live by an airport. And, you know, for me, quality of life — feeling like you have a bad case of the flu every day is not a good quality of life for me. And, you know, I just want to feel good and be able to be very active. I like to go hiking. I like to be outdoors. And if you don’t feel good, you can’t do anything.
[10:08] TS — Absolutely. And I think people underestimate what’s going on around them, like where they live and how much that impacts them. I know you and I have talked a lot about that with the weather patterns coming through Ohio just killing us.
[10:25] JH — It really affects your outlook on life, depression, anxiety, just so many aspects that you may not realize. And, if you know me, I’m a positive person, and it’s hard to stay positive if you feel like crap every day.
[10:50] TS — For those of you who don’t know, if you listened to the last episode, Julie’s website is “Coaching PI”, and the “PI” doesn’t mean detective, although maybe a little bit. The PI actually stands for Positive Influence. She’s such a positive person, it’s actually part of her company name!
Today, Julie’s going to talk to us about special work accommodations. And I love this because there are so many things that we can do, that we usually don’t even think about doing, that can make a huge difference in our ability to feel good and do the work that we want to do. I’ll share just a couple of stories, and then we’ll let Julie share some stories.
[11:37] TS — I had one client who was, I believe, taking the LSAT (it was some type of law exam) and so there were lots of rules involved. Like, she couldn’t bring anything in with her. Like, literally, nothing. You couldn’t bring a watch, couldn’t bring a pencil, couldn’t bring sunglasses. And she was super sensitive to the fluorescent lights that she knew were going to be in the exam rooms. So, she had gone out, even though she didn’t actually need glasses, she went out and got regular glasses with a slight tint to them to help with the fluorescent lights. And those are the kinds of things that you can do to help you work better.
[12:25] TS — My husband doesn’t have fibromyalgia, but he has a lot of back pain. One of the things he did was to talk to HR about getting a sit/stand desk so that he can sit some of the time, stand some of the time, and move around. It makes his back a lot happier. And if you’ve ever been a boss or an employee, either way, you know that when employees feel good, they do better work. So, it’s absolutely better for the company.
So, Julie, tell us about some of the work accommodations that you’ve gotten, either for yourself or for your clients.
[13:01] JH — Well, first off, I kind of want to define what it is.
[13:04] TS — You and your definitions! <laughs> You did this to me last time too. Okay, fine. 🙂
[13:15] JH — But, I want people to understand the importance of the definition part of it. You’re absolutely right. The definition of special workplace accommodations is: Can you perform your work tasks with or without special accommodations? When you request special accommodations, it cannot cause an undue hardship on the company. So, if you say, “I need an elevator put in.” I mean, that could be an undue hardship, because an elevator is very, very costly. So, that’s what they mean by undue hardship. Okay?
[14:00] JH — The other thing I want to stress is never, ever, ever tell someone you can’t do your job.
[14:00] TS — That’s right. Yes.
[14:09] JH — If you tell someone you can’t do your job, you don’t need to be working there. It’s just that you need assistance or help with some of your tasks. If that makes a difference. Or what do I want to say? I’m losing my words, Tami.
[14:27] TS — I know exactly what you’re saying. And this comes back to what we talked about in the last episode, about making these things fair for both the employee and the employer. I mentioned on the last episode, I used to manage the support department for a software company, and we were in an older building. There were no elevators. So, your example was perfect. For me to say, you know, “I can’t work here because you don’t have an elevator.” That’s just not something they could do. They didn’t even own the building. Right?
[15:00] TS — And also speaking as somebody who used to supervise… Like your job task and the job description — the things that you need to do as part of your job — if you can’t do them, then I need to hire another employee, because these are the things that need to be done in order for the company to function. Right? I’m running a call center. If you can’t talk on the phone, why are you here? Just using it as an obvious example. So, I think that’s kind of what you were talking about with needing assistance on certain tasks, right?
[15:42] JH — It’s really looking at a new way of doing a task, you know, or needing assistance. So, let’s say, a lot of [companies] will have physical requirements of a job, and it’s always pushing, pulling, grasping, standing, walking, crouching, bending, lifting, whatever. So, if you need some assistance — like you can’t lift 50 pounds, but you can maybe lift 20 — so they need somebody to help you with that. Or, if you’re walking, maybe you walk okay, but maybe you need a cane. That’s a special accommodation, but you can still do your job.
[16:27] TS — Correct. Yeah.
[16:29] JH — So, some things that I have done with some of my clients [who have] sensory issues… I know I have terrible sensory issues. The longer I have fibromyalgia the more they come out, so I know how to help my clients with stuff. I have a client that can’t go out to eat because of the noise, so [she uses] earplugs.
I had a client who would have to travel for her work. She had a therapy dog. She gets migraines, sensory issues to light, to noise, and also cold. So, we had to work together on:
- It’s okay to travel with her therapy dog.
- It’s okay if she wears a hat during the meetings to cut down on the glare of the lights.
- It’s okay if she needs to bring a blanket.
[17:35] JH — I even had a client who I worked with on having migraine glasses at all times. Or she can wear ear buds, so she can listen to classical music that is calming to her, so she can cut out all the noise of everyone else around her. So, it’s just different things like that.
Back to the client who travels a lot, her company required that they share rooms. Well, we had to ask for a special room accommodation because she has to have it dark. She has to have it at a certain temperature. She has her therapy dog with her.
[18:25] TS — She needs a place to go lay down when she’s having a migraine and not have somebody else in the room making noise.
[18:34] JH — Absolutely. So, it’s just looking at the tasks that you do, looking at the struggles you have doing those tasks, and looking at a way to do those differently.
[18:48] TS — I think, too — you can correct me if I’m wrong here — but haven’t you also worked with clients on things like adjusting the hours that they work? Either what time they work, or how many hours [they work], or being able to work from home, and some of those kinds of things?
[19:03] JH — Yes! I worked with one client I have — we actually had it worked out so she only worked 15 to 20 hours at her job and did at least 10 hours remotely.
[19:21] TS — So, 10 to 15 hours in the office at her desk and the rest remotely at home?
[19:29] JH — Yes. Or, even the time [of day]. You know, with fibromyalgia a lot of us get our best sleep from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM. If you’re [supposed to be] going to work at 8:00, but adjusting your hours so you go in at 10:00 or 10:30, but then you get off later — early evening versus 4:30 or something. You know, it’s looking at things like that.
I’m also looking at, maybe, if you’re having a flare day, working from home or conference calls. For me, I have a hard time if I’m in a meeting and there’s a lot of sidebar conversations. So, it’s even asking if you’re in a conference call or just a meeting, having those sidebar conversations cut down. It was just something little like that, because that’s sensory overload for us. Or having those conference calls or meetings taped or recorded, so if you’re not able to attend because you’re having a flare day, you’re still a part of it.
[20:41] TS — Absolutely. And I was actually just going to mention the recording thing when you mentioned it, because that is exactly why we’ve got the show notes and the transcripts out at FibromyalgiaPodcast.com. Because, for fibro brains, we don’t multitask all that well. So, being in a meeting, participating in a meeting, really listening to what people are saying, and also trying to take notes… It’s like you can take notes of what you just heard and miss what somebody else is saying. Or you can listen and not take notes. Right? Being able to have the meeting recorded so that you can participate, be there, be present, and then take notes later or have the recording as your notes, is also a great way to do it.
[21:33] JH — One thing that I also think is important for individuals who have fibromyalgia and still work is proper ergonomics. Because, if your workstation is not ergonomically correct, oh my gosh, the trapezius muscle can just tighten up. Your shoulders begin to come up to your ears. You have migraines. You have stress headaches. Your back and legs hurt. You know, it can be a gamut of things. So, proper ergonomics to your workstation.
[22:08] JH — And that doesn’t mean that just anybody can do that. I’ll be honest with you. You need somebody that’s familiar with ergonomics. I worked at a nursing home as their HR director and we actually had therapy on site. So, I had the occupational therapists come in and help me set up my work site. So, that’s even your chair. What level or angle are your legs at when you’re sitting? What about the arch in your back and your chair? Do your arms go up and down? What’s the height of the computer? What’s the distance from your eyes?
[22:48] JH — And, like Tami said, I worked with a cop. I mean, have you ever thought about the belt that a cop wears? My cousin’s husband is a cop, and I said, “Can I just lift your belt?” I wanted to see how heavy it was. And I’m thinking, “Oh my, I could not wear this.” But we got it so she could wear that, but just sitting at a desk. So, if your company will invest in you, they will invest in a desk so sometimes you can sit, or you can move it up so you’re standing, and that’s going to help.
[23:30] JH — I’ve also worked with some of my clients when they’re sitting, certain exercises they can do with their legs to get the blood flowing. I had a physical therapist tell me that the more blood flow you have, the less pain you’re going to have. So, that’s why you feel so much pain in the morning. But maybe mid afternoon you don’t, because you’re up and moving. So, I’ve worked with some of my clients on some exercises they can even do sitting at their desk with their lower body or their arms and stuff, to get the blood flow.
[24:05] TS — Or even accommodations like having super short breaks every hour versus longer breaks like every two, three, four hours.
[24:19] JH — Or even longer deadlines, because sometimes our thought processes take just a little bit longer. And so, even asking for flexible or longer deadlines.
One thing I just want to add here, is that I developed an HR tool kit that will help employees. And it’s for them to share with their boss or their HR department on how to work with someone with a chronic illness. They will look up what you feel, or what your boss will see in you, when you’re having a day, or what kind of accommodations there are, or what is the definition of a flare up. So if you’re interested in something like that and want a copy of that, you can email me at JHamilton@CoachingPI.com or you can email Tami because we all have fibro brain.
[25:28] TS — That’s right. And Julie’s email address will be out in the show notes. Just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/15, for Episode 15, and you will have her email address right there. I know we also mentioned in the last episode, but it would be good to mention it here too, that you also have an assessment to help people figure out if they need special accommodations and what kind of accommodations? You want to talk about that a little bit?
[25:58] JH — Yes, I have an assessment on my website, that’s CoachingPI.com, and if you complete that, it comes directly to me and I’ll respond to you and give you suggestions on things that you could look at doing.
[26:15] TS — I think the main thing about these special accommodations is that they’re unique to you. It’s all about you and your specific job and how you can do those specific tasks. So, sometimes it might even be helpful to have a consultation with Julie and actually talk through some of that, because it’s not like we can give you a list of all the accommodations you should ask for.
[26:45] JH — Like she said, it’s very specific to you. It’s not like a general form. A couple of things I do want to mention: When you’re asking for special work accommodations is, it has to be in writing. So you may want to ask if your company has a special form they use. Otherwise you can just write it down.
[27:05] JH — The other thing is, once you request an accommodation, you do not have to verify it monthly. I had a client whose company wanted her to go to the doctor on a monthly basis to verify she still needed her workplace accommodation. Well, that’s not a requirement.
The requirement is once you ask for it, that’s a special accommodation they will need to meet as long as you’re employed there. Okay? Except, like, let’s say I break my leg and I have to keep my leg elevated, and I can’t go on rounds or something. That’s different than a fibro accommodation because that’s for [a specific] amount of time.
[27:57] TS — Right. Our illness is not one that is one day going to go away. There is no cure for fibromyalgia. There is a lot we can do to feel better. And there may be some point where you get to that — you are feeling better and you don’t need it, and that’s your choice. But your employer can’t require you to.
[28:20] TS — So, along those same lines, Julie, do you need to have a doctor’s note for why you’re asking for that accommodation, or is your just asking for it good enough?
[28:30] JH — A lot of times a company will require that the doctor have some type of a written letter for them.
[28:41] TS — So, I can’t just say, “I don’t want to come in until noon.”
[28:45] JH — Right.
[28:47] TS — But my doctor could write a note saying that, “I want Tami to sleep until at least 9:00.”
[28:53] JH — “Due to Tami’s medical issues, she will need to work only from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.” Or “Due to Tami’s health issues, I only want her to work four hours a day.” Just things like that.
[29:12] TS — Yes. And I think it’s important to stop here really quick and just remind everybody — that just because you ask for it, it isn’t a guarantee. There is that aspect of being able to actually do what’s in your job description and not causing an undue hardship on the company.
I’ll use my past as an example: I ran the call center. If you couldn’t be in the office to answer the phone, you couldn’t do your job. So, having an accommodation of being able to work from home wouldn’t work at my company, because you literally had to be there to answer the phone. That was your job. We could maybe find you a different job, but that particular job, the main job description was you had to be there to answer the phone. So, yes.
[30:04] JH — And if they need to find you another position, it would have to be a similar position at the same pay. It could not be a demotion or take away any pay because then it would be considered discrimination.
[30:22] TS — What if there were no other positions in the company?
[30:25] JH — Then you can’t do the job. They might put you on a leave for 30 days to see if something comes up, and if nothing comes up, then they would probably terminate you. And, really, you think that sounds unfair, but you also have to put your hat on as a business. They still have a business to run.
[30:46] TS — Absolutely. People are there to do the job. Yes. Exactly.
[30:51] JH — But I want to emphasize again: never, ever tell somebody you cannot do your job, because there are probably just certain aspects or certain tasks that you cannot do, and we will just work on that. I can work with you on that, on how to do it in a different way.
[31:10] TS — Absolutely. Like using my call center example, maybe not hold the headset with your neck all in a crank, but we can get you a headset so you don’t have to hold the receiver to your ear. You know, there are a lot of tweaks that can be made and should be tried before you get to the point where you just can’t do it.
That’s another thing too. We talked about this on the last episode, but employers are going to want to work with you. It is so much more expensive, takes so much more time, more lost revenue and downtime in replacing you as an employee, than helping you get the accommodations you need to be able to continue doing your job.
[32:02] TS — So, this might be a good time to talk about: How much do you say when you need to talk to your boss, either about accommodations, or should you tell them about your illness even if you don’t need accommodations? Let’s talk about that a little bit.
[32:25] JH — That is such a fine line. I think: 1. It has to do with your relationship with your boss. I’ve had a really good boss. I’ve had a really, really bad boss. And the really bad boss, I probably wouldn’t have shared anything with her. The really good boss, I was lucky to have her when I was dealing with my diagnosis, right after that. And she really worked with me, and I helped educate her and even some of the nurses that I worked with. So, I think it depends on that. But one thing I want to stress is that it’s all confidential. So, even if you have a workplace accommodation, your boss can’t go out and say, “Well, Tami has a workplace accommodation, so you’ll have to step up.” That’s really uncouth to me.
[33:32] TS — Right, right. Exactly. Exactly. What about those employees who are like, “How come she got the cool desk? How come she got the cushy chair? How come she doesn’t come in until 10 o’clock when I have to be here at eight?”
[33:46] JH — “Well those are things that are confidential between me and Tami, and we have worked through some of those issues. And, right now, we’re just trying it out, and she was the lucky one that got it.” You know, it’s just in how the supervisor chooses to twist it and address it in a positive manner. Of course, it’s positives, people, positive.
[34:10] TS — That’s right. Now, if you have a workplace that’s large enough, I would imagine your HR department is probably the first place to go if you have one. Is that right?
[34:26] JH — You can either go to your boss or your HR department. So, either one. But tell them as much as you feel comfortable with or as little as you feel comfortable with. And it may just be, “I have some medical issues and I need some assistance in doing a couple of tasks.” It may be as simple as that.
[34:55] TS — And, unless you really know your boss and know how they’re going to react, I would imagine that a smart move would also be to test the water — and do little bits at a time, and see how they respond — before you just go in and give them the whole story.
[35:15] JH — Yes, absolutely. So, you don’t want to go in and say, “Okay, I can’t be here at 8:30. I can’t lift 40 pounds. I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” What can you do? You know, just a little bit at a time. And, like Tami and I both stressed, it’s individual — very individualized, according to what you have with your fibromyalgia. Because even with fibromyalgia, mine is not the same as Tami’s, and neither one of ours is probably the same as yours. So, it’s very individualized, and if you need help talking to your boss or to your HR department that you need help with accommodations, I would recommend a Coach, someone that’s familiar with that.
[36:16] TS — For sure. Just like we can help you know how to have conversations with your doctors, we can also walk you through how to have those conversations with your bosses — and even fellow coworkers, if you feel like you need to share something with them. Sometimes, it’s not about what we share, but how we share it that makes the difference on how receptive somebody is.
Like Julie was just saying, if you walk in and say, “Well, I can’t do this and I can’t do this and I can’t do this,” as an employer, that’s going to totally put me on the defensive of, “What are you here for, then? Why am I employing you, if you can’t do your job?”
But if you go in with the attitude of, “How can we work together?” And go in with, “I’m having a little bit of trouble doing this particular task. What can we do to help make sure I can do my job?” Or, you know, “If I just had this one small thing, it would allow me to be a better employee.” There are so many different ways you can have that conversation that makes them more receptive.
[37:29] JH — It’s all in the delivery of your message. Absolutely.
[37:34] TS — I would say that for most of us, it’s also going to be better to have that conversation earlier, rather than at the point when your boss is thinking, “Why am I paying this person? They’re never at work on time. They don’t get their work done on time. When they do their work, it’s not very good.” It’s a whole lot easier to go in before you get to that point and say, “I need some help.” They’re more apt to work with you than when you get to the point where they’re already thinking about how they’re going to replace you.
[38:12] JH — Right. So, you want to really look at that. There’s just so much that you want to do, really. But you don’t want it to reflect on your performance evaluation. You don’t want to wait until it gets to that point. You want to start the conversation early and work up. I think a little bit at a time.
[38:39] TS — So, speaking of starting the conversation early, what about if you’re looking for a job, how much do you say in an interview?
[38:51] JH — Well, normally, at least the interviews that I’ve been involved in, they will give you the job description and say, “Can you do this job, with or without accommodations?” And then you can say, “Yes, I can. But I’ll need some accommodations.” Or, “I can do it with or without.” The thing that you have to remember is: if you can do the job with accommodations, they need to try to adhere to those or try to work with you on that, and not just say, “No, I can’t do it.” Because then it’s discrimination and they don’t even know what you need help with.
[39:41] TS — Right. And it could be something super simple. Any other thoughts you have about special work accommodations or somebody who wants to start thinking about this?
[40:00] JH — No, not really, that I haven’t talked about. I would just stress: maybe try the assessment that I have. If you’d like the toolkit, email me or let Tami know, and she can get a hold of me. You know, always talk to somebody, because I think that you need to talk to somebody before it gets so bad that you’re looking at disciplinary action or it’s reflected on your performance evaluation or that you’re terminated.
[40:35] TS — Or that you’re at the place where you’re thinking, “I just need to file for disability.” Like, let’s not get to that point.
[40:41] JH — Right, right. Talk to somebody, whether that’s a Coach, whether that’s a friend, whether that’s your boss, whether that’s HR, because sometimes it’s just bouncing something off somebody and working through it.
[41:01] TS — Absolutely. I think that’s one of the things that… We think we have to have it all figured out. And, sometimes, you need somebody to problem solve with, brainstorm with. I know Julie with her experience for sure… You know, if you went to her and said, “Hey I’m struggling with this thing, and I don’t know how to fix it”, she would totally have ideas for you. That’s what she does.
[41:30] JH — Sometimes, it’s even the objective party that is one of the best benefits, because we are so into it and we feel that’s our normal. And it may not be normal, but it’s our normal. But, you know, we’re out here, where a coach or that objective third party can see it in a different light.
[41:57] TS — Right. Both the good and the bad. Right? So, you know, when we’re talking with you about how big of a struggle it is to get to work on time every day… We can see this might not be a problem yet, but if we don’t fix this, it’s going to be a problem.
[42:19] JH — Right. We have an emotional attachment, and a third party can take that emotion out of it.
[42:28] TS — For sure. We also talked on the last episode, about the fact that if you’re having that thought of, “I don’t know, should I ask for help with this?” If you’re having that thought, the answer is probably, “Yes.”
[42:41] JH — Because you’re already past the point of a conversation, because we don’t realize how much we really need it.
[42:51] TS — Exactly. And I just want to add one thing here — and this may or may not be part of Julie’s wheelhouse, but because I have a bunch of different Coaches that I have trained, I just want to mention — I had a Coach who actually helped a student who is in a graduate program get some accommodations around school assignments and how to do testing and some of those kinds of things. So, while we are talking specifically about work accommodations, this same type of thing applies to school, as well. Whether you’re in college or even a teen in high school. There are a lot of things that can be done.
[43:38] TS — I have a Coach who specifically works with teens. Her daughter has fibromyalgia. They’ve figured out a lot of ways to make sure that she’s still at school, even if it’s not in the traditional manner. So, there are lots of ways that this information can be applied. If you’re listening and you’re wondering… by all means, do reach out! You can reach out directly to Julie. We’ll have her contact info. Or use the Find a Coach form that’s on the website to request someone else. That’s totally fine.
[44:16] JH — Yes. I mean, if you reach out to me and let’s say a teen who has fibro. I will connect you with her, with a Coach that can help you, too. I’m not going to say, “Oh yeah, I can help” if it’s not right.
[44:33] TS — Yes, that’s the awesome thing about our network of Coaches, is that we do often refer to each other when we know it’s actually a better fit — and that’s why we actually don’t just list a bunch of Coach names [on our website]. We want to match you to the right Coach for you, based on your circumstances, your lifestyle, your personality, your financial situation, to make sure that we get you the right Coach. So, whether you’re looking for a scholarship or coaches-in-training that are at a low fee, all the way up to VIP coaching with me, and everything in between, there are lots of options for you.
All right, Julie, any last minute thoughts? I think we kind of covered it.
[45:22] JH — I do too. I just wish everyone the best and I want you to be the best that you can be. So, reach out if you need some help.
[45:33] TS — Absolutely.
Don’t forget she’s got that assessment on her website, CoachingPI.com. We’ll have that in the show notes. And the HR tool kit that you can print out or email to your HR department to educate them on fibromyalgia. One of my favorite parts of her tool kit, the definitions are great, but my favorite part is where it lists out the various symptoms of fibromyalgia. It also tells them what it sounds like and what it looks like. So, they can be listening to your words and looking at your actions and be like, “Oh, maybe today’s a high pain day, and that’s why she’s grumpy. She’s not just being mean for no reason.”
[46:25] TS — Awesome. Well, if you guys have any questions that we haven’t covered, by all means, please reach out, either to Julie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll have that in the show notes – or you can always use the Ask The Coach option on the website, and we do those “Ask The Coach” episodes every ten episodes. So, the next one will be coming up in about five more episodes.
Thanks so much for being here Julie, and for sharing your expertise with us and your resources with us. I know they’re going to be super helpful for people.
[47:00] JH — You’re welcome!
[47:02] Thanks so much for tuning in for my second interview with Julie Hamilton. Just to recap those resources that she mentioned in this episode… And remember this is all out there on the website at FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/15.
We have the assessment that Julie has to help you assess your work situation and whether you need to ask for special work accommodations, if you are needing to use the Family Medical Leave Act, or potentially file for short or long-term disability, you can find that assessment at CoachingPI.com.
You can also email Julie or contact her through her website to receive a copy of her HR toolkit to share with your HR professionals or share with your boss, to help them understand fibromyalgia a little bit better. You can email Julie at JHamilton@CoachingPI.com. And if you are interested in potentially having a consultation with Julie to explore what kind of accommodations you might be able to request at your job…
[48:21] As Julie and I have both said in this episode, this is a very unique situation. Everybody’s job is different. Everybody’s fibromyalgia is different. And the intersection of those two things is unique to each of us. So, if you’re interested in having a conversation with Julie about what that might look like for you, you can reach out to her through her website at CoachingPI.com. You can email her directly at JHamilton@CoachingPI.com or you can just use the Find a Coach option at FibromyalgiaPodcast.com up in the contact menu — you’ll see Find a Coach there — and you can just put in Julie’s information.
[49:04] We do have a lot of different kinds of coaches. So, again, as I mentioned in this episode, depending on if you are a student, if you’re a teen who needs some help with accommodations, school accommodations, if you are a college student, if you are looking for work, if you have work and need to make it work for you, all of those scenarios may lead us to recommend a particular Coach, whether that’s Julie or someone else.
[49:38] If you go to our website, under the Contact menu, choose that Find a Coach option. If you leave the name blank — or, honestly, even if you fill it in — and give us the information that is on that form regarding your fibromyalgia, your situation, we will actually match you to the best Coach for you, depending on your particular situation. So, don’t worry about having to know who that person is. That’s our job. We do play matchmaker, and we would love to match you up.
We have Coaches all over the world and can really help people in all kinds of different situations. Whether you’re young, whether you are older and retired, if you are single, married, kids, no kids, male, female, working, not working, it really doesn’t matter. We’ve got coaches for, really, every situation, and we would love to help you find ways for you to be productive again, to feel your best, and get back to doing work that you love.
[50:53] We look forward to having you in future episodes. We are in the process of booking those right now. So, stay tuned for our next few episodes. As always, we do every 10th episode as an “Ask The Coach” or “Dear Tami” episode, and that will be coming up in just another five episodes. So, that will be happening soon. If you have any questions at all, anything that you’ve been wondering, if you are curious about an on-air coaching session, we can definitely do that also. Just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com — you will see our Ask The Coach option under that Contact menu — and feel free to ask me your question or tell me a scenario that you would like some advice on. If your question is chosen, we will do that live on the air. I will answer that for you.
[51:54] If it’s something where I feel like we actually need to have a conversation, do a little bit of coaching, then I may invite you to an on-air coaching session. In the meantime, because we do release these episodes every other week, and that means five episodes is going to take a little bit to get there — it’ll come up before we know it, but at the same time that can be a long time to wait when you have a question — we do reply to your questions when they come in, so you will get an answer. But, then, we may also answer it on air if it’s chosen for the 10th episode, which is our “Ask The Coach” or “Dear Tami” episode. So, send those in. I look forward to hearing your questions and seeing how I can help.
We will see you back here in a couple of weeks for our next episode. Bye!
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