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Returning to the Office

I returned to the office just over a month ago.

It was the first time spending a full day, let alone a full week, in a designated workspace since my diagnosis of non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis. For roughly 16 months my life was conducted from my cozy nest at home.

I was nervous. Not only did I feel unaccustomed to the office environment, but it was also the first time stepping into it knowingly living with nr-AxSpA.

Let me contextualize why I took so much time away

At Christmastime in 2019, I had a breakdown. I was in a poor place mentally and physically, so the next day I stepped away from my job to take care of myself. I needed to figure out what was wrong and I needed professional help.

For the eight weeks that followed, that is precisely what I did. Within that period, I received my diagnosis, followed up on required testing, began medication treatment, sought counselling support, and did whatever I could to try and get back on the right track.

I described it at the time as wake up and figure out what appointment I was supposed to be at that day.

By the beginning of March, I felt ready to get back in the workforce. My job was seasonal in nature, but they hired me back to do a one-week contract for an event. That went well and I was hired for two other events in the coming weeks.

Then COVID-19 shut down my life

I work in the events world, which was the first thing to close when the pandemic reached my corner of the world.

Fast forward a few months and I began the job I currently hold, though due to continuing pandemic restrictions I worked the first six months or so from home. Which was good in some aspects, but very isolating and made certain aspects of my duties very challenging.

So, I got the notice to move into office space, and the first week was awful. I would finish each day in a lot of pain so I worked at setting up my AxSpA friendly office environment.

The first thing I did was make my toolkit transportable. I have quite a few remedies I will use depending on the situation but they were scattered throughout my house (check out my Flare Toolkit video).

I had gotten into the habit of beginning my days sitting with a heating pad on my back, so that also came to the office.

The best thing I did for myself was buy an ergonomic chair. At my chiropractor’s recommendation, I got one which is completely adjustable. How I’m feeling changes daily, or even hourly, so being able to tailor the headrest, armrests, lumbar support, tilt, height for whatever helps on any given day is really useful.

I don’t work a fixed schedule. This really helps manage mornings when my body takes extra time to get the engine revved up. I typically start my day between 8-9 a.m. and finish between 4-5 p.m.

I set an internal schedule to be sure I’m prepared and punctual for all meetings and get my work done accordingly to hit my deadlines.

Finally, I make sure I move

The worst days are the ones where I haven’t gotten out of my seat for the full eight hours.

It might be as simple as a washroom break, but getting up to do a quick stretch goes a long way.

I will find a short task that requires standing, some days I’ll use a nearby counter as a makeshift standing desk. It’s about getting creative to get through the day feeling alright.

Now, I want to turn it to you. How have you adapted your work environment to suit your AxSpA needs?

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