If you have a chronic illness, finding the best job means finding the job that is most suited to your new lifestyle and health needs.
In short, the best jobs for people with a chronic illness, are the ones that have: Low physical intensity or harm, flexible working hours, little to no travelling, the option to work remotely, and of course… as little stress as possible.
I know that the words ‘chronic illness’ and ‘best jobs’ sound like a disastrous joke waiting to fail. It’s hard enough to get the ‘job’ part right, never mind the ‘best’ part too. But bare with me.
10 years ago, when my Pandora’s box of diagnoses first opened, I asked myself (for the first time of many), “What the f*ck am I going to do with my life?”
Everything I had planned, was just not realistic anymore. I had to re-evaluate my life choices, goals and career aspirations.
Unfortunately, for me, not working was not a choice. I had to make ends meet which led me on the journey to research and try out the best options for someone in my position.
So, if you are searching for answers and looking for inspiration in how you can work and manage your chronic pain.
Look no further.
Here are some of the important things you need to consider going forward.
Working with a Chronic Illness
Career choices (in general) is a hard topic for most of us. But the main things that most people need to consider, include:
Work experience, qualifications and, of course, what you like.
But, if you have a chronic illness, there’s something else you need to consider…
I know your body’s new demands can feel about as subtle as a pig with lipstick.
But regardless of having a chronic illness, we all need to feel productive and have a purpose that is greater than ourselves.
Chronic illness should never mean chronic unemployment. Or worse yet, chronic hopelessness – for any of us.
Where should you start?
You probably aren’t that person who has 4 hours of sleep and functions like a rock star the next day.
No. You’re the rockstar that takes their meds at 9pm, drinks a cup of tea and gets into bed at a reasonable hour.
And guess what? That’s okay!
You need to know your limits and work with them.
Trying to find the right job if you have a chronic illness can feel a little overwhelming. But there are 2 steps you can take to sift through your thoughts in a constructive way.
I should mention here that even with full-time work, I wouldn’t recommend taking a job that requires you to be in the office at all times.
Working remotely becomes an important part of any sustainable full-time job.
The volatility that comes with being chronically ill can make it difficult to commit to specific times, dates and occasions as there’s no way of knowing when you’re not going to be too sick to work.
I often find that I need to sleep longer in the mornings, I can only focus on intense work for 6 hours or less a day and I need regular naps to keep my energy levels up.
There are so many things that can trigger a flare for me (including absolutely no reason at all), that I have to cancel about 50% of my appointments a week.
Can you imagine pitching this to an employer? I can see it now…
Employer: “Is there anything we need to know about before we hire you?”
Me: “Well, I can only come in after 10:30am. I’ll need a quiet space to nap when I’m tired and you really shouldn’t count on me for meetings because I probably won’t pitch.”
So if you want to work a full-time 9-5 job, the biggest thing you need to consider is how reliable your health allows you to be.
- You’re likely to have certain employee benefits available. (Medical care here being the shining advantage.)
- You have a reliable stream of monthly income. And can keep your monthly costs covered.
- You’re more likely to be given disability benefits, depending on the company.
- If you are fired or retrenched, you’re more likely to be given severance pay.
- You have a higher chance of being promoted and earning more because it’s a full-time job. Cha-ching!
- You probably won’t be able to choose your working hours. So doctors appointments etc. come as a second priority.
- Flares or bad days are more difficult to accommodate. Your company expects your primary responsibility to be to them – remember that.
- You may not have the energy or means to actively fulfil any extra job requirements. For example, travel.
- People will depend on you. Period. You can’t afford to be M.I.A because of your health when you have a certain quota to meet.
- If your medical costs increase – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take on extra work to cover them.
- Your hours are your own. You are free to work when you can, and it’s not necessary to go beyond that.
- You can prioritise your health first. If you need to take time off, or go to therapy, doctor’s appointments etc. you can just go.
- You leave office politics behind! This one is actually important. When you’re not well, you don’t need to deal with workplace drama too.
- It can be more reliable if you have more than one job at a time.If one job suddenly comes to an end, you don’t need to suffer financially.
- You can be in an environment that’s better for you physically, and mentally. I love the fact that I can work from my couch with a blanket and 20 cushions when I’m sore. It makes it manageable.
- Those awesome employee benefits you get as a full-time employee aren’t available to you as a part-time or freelance worker. Sorry 🙁
- You work for yourself – so you need to have the mental discipline to get up and work every day. You are your own manager.
- If you’re working on a project basis, your hours will fluctuate. There are some hour-heavy weeks when deadlines are up ahead.
- If a project does come to a sudden end, or you are fired, and you have no other jobs – there’s no severance pay.
- If you need more money, you can’t just ask for a raise. You need to hustle and make it happen for yourself.
The Best Jobs For Anyone with a Chronic Illness
These jobs are not necessarily suited to your personality or particular lifestyle. They are simply the best jobs that you can do as someone who has a chronic illness.
This section isn’t guaranteed to land you your dream career. It’s here to give you an idea of the most practical jobs if you have a chronic illness.
The one thing I can’t stand is being given vague solutions to serious questions I ask. So I promise you – I’m not about to do it to you.
But, I think it’s really important you know that the jobs I’m mentioning here are purely ones that are well-suited to someone with a chronic illness.
Here are the jobs that I recommend...
Pretty much anything editorial
Whether it’s writing, editing, proof-reading, transcribing or blogging. You name it – these make up some of the best jobs for people with a chronic illness.
Blogging, in particular, is taking over in a big way. And I think it’s awesome to see so many people express themselves through words.
The only thing I urge you to think about is that you gain enough experience as a digital writer or journalist before you start.
4 million blog posts are published a day. It’s a damn competitive industry. So you need to know what you’re doing from the get-go.
Digital design, art and photography editing
Again, we’re going straight to digital.
Honestly, there is so much potential for chronic illness sufferers in this digital era. And we need to milk it!
As a designer or artist, you can work from home. It’s easy to be a freelancer if you prefer to keep your hours your own.
Having your own hours means you can limit your stress. And the cycle of good career choices can just continue to grow from here.
Teaching or coaching
Online teaching and tutoring is in such high demand.
People love the convenience of being able to learn from the comfort of their own home, in the time that’s convenient to them.
So if you’re a qualified teacher or coach, this opens up a rich vein of business opportunities.
Another great idea is to develop actual lesson plans and material. All teachers need this – most don’t have the time to do it themselves.
Digital marketing and sales (including social media management)
So this job option can be a little hour-intensive, but it’s still one that can be managed remotely.
If marketing and sales are things you’re passionate about (and you feel you can handle it) then it’s still a practical job option for someone with a chronic illness.
The key things you need to evaluate is how demanding your particular job will be, and then see if it realistically fits with all your health demands too.
Book-keeping, accounting and data entry
Here’s another one that can be a little hour intensive – especially around tax season! But overall it’s still a great job option.
The work itself doesn’t require much physical strain, there’s little need to travel or calm, and you can do it part-time.
I personally enjoy it because it’s such methodical work that can be very rewarding.
Communications and consulting
If you’re someone who likes to interact with others as much as possible, but your health limits mean that it’s hard to get around then this could be a good career opportunity for you.
Some job options include at-home customer service, customer advisor or virtual consultant (for a travel company, for example).
Web development (last but not least)
It’s time to jump on the digital train because it’s about to change your life.
“Development” is a blanket term used to cover pretty much all digital jobs such as software engineering, website design or app development.
These are some of the best jobs for people with chronic illness. They fit all the criteria I spoke about earlier.
Best of all, you can earn well and still keep your chronic condition as the number one priority.
What Criteria Should a Chronic Illness-Friendly Job Meet?
Low physical intensity
Your body is already going through enough as it is. You shouldn’t put it through any physical stress unnecessarily.
Flexible hours and the option to work remotely
I’m a huge advocate of flexible hours – regardless of your health.
But if you have a chronic illness that makes your daily health unpredictable. Flexi hours and remote working will mean your work ethic isn’t compromised when you need to answer emails from bed.
Little to no travel
Travelling is exhausting for the best of us. If it takes a healthy person 1 day to recover from a 10 hour flight – it takes 3!
This is just not something worth gambling on in your career.
I can’t even keep a straight face as I write this down… I’m about as A-type as you get. Stress used to fuel my ambition to a large extent.
It’s just not healthy. And one way or another, you need to learn that you just can’t afford to be in an unhealthy work environment if you want your physical health to improve.
The Worst Jobs if You Have a Chronic Illness
No one knows you better than you know yourself. But there are a couple of job options I don’t recommend if you have a chronic illness. Trust me – I’ve got your back on this!
You want to stay clear of jobs that are physically demanding with inflexible and intensive hours.
Her are the jobs that I would strongly advise against, but that I have relevant alternatives to, that you may like.
The food industry
If you’re one of those people who’ve said, “Screw it! I’m going to quit my job and open a small bakery.”
I feel you.
I’ve been you. And trust me… It’s not the way to go.
Solution: It’s a competitive industry, but there’s nothing stopping you from making cooking videos in your own kitchen.
Another great idea is to create recipe books. If you’ve got something special to share with the culinary world – do it online.
Here’s another high energy, hour-intensive industry. Fashion, in general, is pretty cutthroat. (Trust me, I was in it.)
Solution: If you want to be in the industry, you could consider working at an online styling service.
Alternatively, you can apply to work as a freelancer for an online fashion magazine, or retailer. And, of course, you can always consider starting your own blog!
Teaching smaller children
Children demand a lot of energy and attention. As much as you may love to teach, being with kids all day does take it out of you.
Solution: This really depends on what you like about teaching.
But if you enjoy inspiring young minds, you could consider writing children’s storybooks, or even textbooks.
Alternatively, you could work as a substitute or part-time teacher. Especially if you have a specific craft you like to teach.
It’s ironic how our health issues can easily prevent us from getting a job in the healthcare industry. But there are some loopholes I think are worth sharing.
Solution: Telehealth – as a (registered) nurse, you could work online and give health-related advice through telecommunication.
Emergency medical call centres – this is especially in demand if you are a qualified psychologist or nurse.
Medical writers or editors – even if you aren’t qualified in the health industry, but you are a reputable writer with work experience in the field, this is something you could apply for.
Other manual jobs to be careful of include:
- Auto mechanics
- Gardening, construction, or landscaping
- Truck driving, or some kind of hour-heavy transport based job
- Hands-on factory work (i.e manufacturing),
- Farming or fishing
- Firefighting or field military /police work
- Mining or oil rig jobs
By now I’m sure you’re getting the gist around what I’m suggesting. I’m not saying don’t be in the industry.
I’m saying: look at how these industries have been growing and adapting.
Working remotely is a growing trend that many people want to get in on. Not just those that have chronic pain or autoimmune issues. So the jobs are out there.
You just need to think outside the box a little and do your research.
How to Find Part Time Work
There are many job opportunities for people with chronic illness. It’s just about knowing where to find them.
Great – you’ve now made the decision to work part-time. You can give yourself a big pat on the back for making this step.
Here are some companies that are set to help you from the beginning.
Whether it’s recruitment, contacts or career advice - they take your health into consideration and open up your professional opportunities.
These companies are focused on helping anyone with a disability or chronic illness:
- Chronically Employed
- Chronically Capable
- ciCoach - The Chronic Illness Career Coach
- WISE Employment (if you live in Australia)
These two companies are focused on supporting women and their careers:
Companies That Hire People with Disabilities
Certain companies want to be as inclusive as possible to all minorities. Providing job opportunities to people with chronic disabilities is a huge part of this.
There are companies out there that are looking for you. Yes… YOU. Here are some of my favourite options.
The Mighty is an online health community that strives to make an impact on your life, if you have a chronic condition. The fact that they are driven to empower us, means they are keen to employ us too!
If you are tech savvy, and interest in web development or online communications, this could be a great opportunity. Especially since, as a big company, great employee benefits are offered to full-time workers.
Here’s another online company that provides many online jobs – not surprising! Nonetheless, it’s still important to disclose your health constraints in your interview.
Philips is just known as a company that hires remote, distance and part-time workers all around the world.
Yes! Hotels need virtual assistants too! And the Hilton group is known to hire virtual workers fairly regularly. This is a wonderful option if you love the hospitality industry.
Creating a Workspace at Home or in the Office
If you want to create a workspace at home that’s chronic illness friendly, it needs to be practical, comfortable and organised.
Creating proper a workspace at home is there to set the boundaries between your personal and professional life.
It’s essential if you’re going to work remotely, and here’s how I recommend going about it.
It’s not just about finding the best jobs for people with a chronic illness. It’s about making your workspace the best that it can be too.
How to create a home workspace
- Invest in a good chair and desk.
- Get a solid filing system in place.
- Take pride in how your space looks. If it inspires you – you’ll want to surround yourself with it all the time!
- Find ways to keep your sh*t together. Organised mind means organised work. This includes cleaning up at the end of every day.
- Prioritise your comfortKeep blankets, pillows, leg rests and anything else you need with you. Comfort will allow you to focus a little more on work and a little less on pain. I also recommend keeping a small fan and heater.
- Get yourself some organisational tools. Files, folders, notepads – anything that makes the space look more professional will gear you to treat it as such!
- Choose a space with good light, if you can. (So you can see what you’re doing.)
- Make a different space to where you sleep, if you can.
You don’t want to associate the place you relax with the place you work. It’s all about strengthening your mindset, and a comfy bed may not shout, “go get’em champ” when you have 30 emails to answer.
I really hope this has helped you get one step closer to making some pretty hectic career decisions up ahead.
Please feel free to reach out to me if there are any other questions you have from here – I’d be happy to answer them.
And if you have any ideas or advice – I’d really love to hear those too! I don’t believe you can ever stop improving on this model.
Please leave me a message in the comment section and I’ll be sure to reach out to you.