Coping with the effects of insomnia when you go to work can be very difficult. Your performance may suffer, or you may find that you are not able to work at all. Your boss or colleagues may not take your situation seriously. It’s important to understand your options and know what help is available to enable you to find or remain in employment.
When to Take Action
Often people with insomnia feel embarrassed talking about it, or hope that if they put off taking action it will eventually go away. Taking this approach at work can lead to trouble. Simply put, your boss is much more likely to believe you if you explain that you have a problem, before, rather than after, you have been called into a meeting about your Deteriorating Performance.
Often mild insomnia can be managed and doesn’t lead to major disruption, but can cause social difficulties at work. If you are often irritable because of your tiredness, talking to colleagues will help them understand that it’s nothing personal. If you struggle to be on time in the mornings, you need to let people know that it’s not because you’re out late partying every night.
If your work has a human resources manager, that’s the person you should talk to first about your sleep problems. If you have Sought Help From Your GP and they have diagnosed chronic insomnia, ask for a note you can show to your employer. You will then be entitled to certain protections under the Disability Discrimination Act. This means you are less likely to face redundancy.
Changes in Working Practice
Under the Disability Discrimination Act, an Employer Has To Make Reasonable Adjustments for employees who have been diagnosed with chronic health problems, including insomnia. Even without a diagnosis, you may find that your employer is keen to discuss possible changes in order to retain you as a member of staff. The important thing is to show your willingness to work together to solve the problem.
If you are a shift worker, you may find that changing your shift pattern makes it easier for you to be on time and stay alert at work. If you usually work nine to five, you may be able to go part time and only come in in the afternoons.
An alternative to going part time or dropping out of work altogether is to arrange to do some or all of your work at home, enabling you to work on a flexible hours basis whenever you feel up to it. If you think this might work, discuss the possibilities with your employer. You may be able to swap some of your usual responsibilities with colleagues to make this arrangement work better.
Sometimes the changes needed are less dramatic. You may be able to arrange for your employer to be more relaxed about when you come in, making up missed hours later without claiming overtime. You may be able to arrange to take breaks and have naps in the staff room when you’re really exhausted, or to keep a cup of coffee beside you even if drinks are not usually allowed.
Inability to Work
If you are made redundant because of problems caused by your insomnia, or if you simply feel unable to cope with your job, you may find yourself in a difficult situation. You may not realistically be able to look for another job or attend a training programme, and you may be warned that this could mean you are not entitled to state support.
In fact, if your insomnia is so severe that you are not able to work, you can get financial help. You are entitled to a Work Capability Assessment to determine what you can do. This means you will receive extra money and, in some cases, help to try to find suitable employment options. If you have any trouble being referred for assessment, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau and ask them to refer you to a Welfare Rights Advisor.
Sometimes people who are not able to do ordinary jobs because of their insomnia are able to do jobs entirely structured around flexible work from home. If you can only manage a limited number of hours, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit to make up the financial shortfall.
Insomnia can make working life really difficult, but it doesn’t mean that your career has to come to an end. If you put your health first and make changes as necessary, you should find that you can still get by and that you can have a much happier, more fulfilling life.