Adults with Arthritis Want to Stay in the Workforce

November 11, 2015

Disability-accommodating workplace policies can help workers with arthritis stay in jobs longer and can lead to enhanced job performance.

Proper medical treatment can keep people with arthritis in the workforce longer, a large study of individuals with arthritis and those without the condition shows.

Physicians should be aware that a growing number of patients, including those with arthritis, are interested in working beyond traditional retirement age, study authors said. And, there is a clinical need to ensure treatment helps them get back to work.

In a presentation given on Nov. 11 at the 2015 ACR/ARHP annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif., Monique A.M. Gignac, M.D., an affiliate scientist with the Toronto Western Research Institute, discussed how individuals living with arthritis have the same desires to remain in the workforce as do their counterparts who don’t have the chronic condition.

“Perhaps we need to provide clinicians with resources, policies, and practices about success stories of how people have managed to sustain in the workplace,” she said. “They can provide education and information to patients looking to continue working.”

According to study results, there were no differences in retirement expectations between individuals with arthritis and those without. Both groups expected to retire from their current jobs at age 64, she said, and 60 percent of them said they plan to return to work full-time or part-time at something else for several more years. In fact, she said, 11 percent of both groups indicated they had no intention of ever retiring.

This concept – retiring from one career to take a job in another field – is called bridged retirement, and it’s becoming more common, Gignac said. Based on results from 631 individuals with arthritis and 538 without it, participants with arthritis reported less fatigue, greater job satisfaction, less productivity loss, and less absenteeism in the second-career jobs than did individuals who never left the workforce.

(The study was funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research.)

Keeping Baby Boomers in the Labor Force Longer: What Does It Mean for Workers with Arthritis?;” Monique A.M. Gignac, M.D., Nov. 11, 2015; 11 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.

Sustaining Employment with Arthritis

Not only can the presence of disability-accommodating workplace policies help workers with arthritis stay in the jobs longer, but proactively using the policies can enhance job performance, according to a small study.

Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 20 percent of American adults have some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. In addition to pain and joint stiffness, arthritis is also responsible for job absenteeism, productivity losses, fatigue, and difficulty sustaining throughout the day.

In a presentation given on Nov. 11 at the 2015 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., Monique A.M. Gignac, M.D., an affiliate scientist with the Toronto Western Research Institute, discussed how workplace policies accommodating disability needs can improve job performance and how physicians should encourage patients to research and utilize those resources when necessary. 

“When an employee has a flare-up, he or she might need to draw on the policies, but they won’t always be a drain on employer resources,” she said. “That’s an important message for workplaces to hear.”

Results showed participants without access to policies experienced more pain, fatigue, and health variability. Those who proactively used policies before any crises exhibited greater productivity and fewer health disruptions.

Among participants, 500 with arthritis and 500 without, two-thirds said their workplace met their accommodation needs, and 16 percent said their needs were exceeded. Twenty percent reported unmet needs, and 8 percent said their workplace had no accommodation policies in place. Of the workplaces with policies, 75 percent had three or more policies available, and most were low-cost solutions, such as flex time, ergonomic equipment, or modified job duties, Gignac said.

According to study results, one-fourth of participants never used disability workplace policies, and three-fourths used only one or two, she said.

(The study was funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research.)

Sustaining Employment with Arthritis: Can Existing Workplace Policies and Accommodations Make a Difference?” Monique A.M. Gignac, M.D., Nov. 11, 2015, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., ACR 2015.

References:

Sustaining Employment with Arthritis: Can Existing Workplace Policies and Accommodations Make a Difference?” Monique A.M. Gignac, M.D., Nov. 11, 2015, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., ACR 2015.

Keeping Baby Boomers in the Labor Force Longer: What Does It Mean for Workers with Arthritis?;” Monique A.M. Gignac, M.D., Nov. 11, 2015; 11 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. ACR 2015