How to Return to Work After A Disability



Returning to work after a disability can be challenging—not only might you feel out of the loop with relationships, projects and changes at work, but you are also dealing with the emotional and physical impact of your condition. (And if you didn’t have long-term disability insurance, you might be dealing with some financial repercussions as well.) But if you are feeling healthy enough to head back, you are probably eager to get back into the swing of things and “rejoin” work life. Here are some tips to ease the transition back to work.

 

Make Sure You’ve Been Cleared

Talk to your doctor about whether you’re truly ready to return to work and make sure that she has signed off on all the paperwork you need as documentation.

 

Practice Your Job At Home

Does your job entail a lot of typing? See how it feels to do so at home. Or, do you frequently give presentations? See if there are any challenges you’ll need to accommodate for, such as being able to stand or use the video equipment. Finding the potential pitfalls in advance will help you feel more confident. 

 

Talk To Human Resources

Chances are good that you’ve been in touch with the human resources department throughout your disability, but make sure that your first stop is to talk with them about any special accommodations you need, such as a quiet room to work in, a different kind of chair, assistance with mobility or an office space that features accessible design. While you’re there, revisit any sort of discussions you need to have about benefits.

 

Initiate a Chat with Your Supervisor

Whether it’s the same manager you left or someone new has taken the reins, schedule a private meeting with your supervisor to find out what you might have missed while out….new goals, new processes, new clients. Also be open with them about sharing any limitations you might have, whether they are physical or mental. Perhaps you need to take breaks more often, or can’t be on your feet for extended periods of time. If there’s information you’d like him or her to share with your team, this is the time to ask for that.

 

Communicate With Your Team

Part of the joy of work is the camaraderie you have with your workmates. If the same colleagues are still in your department, they surely have missed you, but they might be hesitant on how to approach you. Sending them a friendly email and then having lunch or coffee with them (as appropriate for your relationship) can be a good way to open the door. They might be unsure what topics are off-limits—be open with them about what you do and don’t want to talk about. Everyone has different privacy limits so consider yours and let your co-workers know. 

 

Start Slow

As you consider a return to work, plan for a staggered schedule as you get back into the swing of things. Maybe getting up and out the door is more difficult now so a later start is preferable. It could be that coming in every other day is the best you can manage to work efficiently, or you tire easier so you’d rather work five shorter days. Whatever schedule works for you is the right one; you don’t want to rush your return or re-entry. “As frustrating as it may be to spend long boring days at home, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be ready to resume working. A too-soon return could set back your recovery and set you up for failure, creating disappointment both for you and your company,” notes mindfulness and leadership development coach Isabel Duarte, who has experience returning from disability leave. 

 

Look Into Retraining

If you’ve been out for a while, you might have lost some skills or the rest of your team might have upskilled. You’ll gain confidence by getting up to speed so look into development opportunities for specific areas, whether you seek training from a fellow team member or ask your supervisor to recommend an outside course. 

 

Take Care of Yourself

No matter what the disability you are dealing with, you have undoubtedly had to relearn a host of skills that used to be second nature. In addition, adapting to a routine with a disability can be exhausting, especially when you have to return to work. Make sure you take time for self-care, whether than entails mild exercise, meditation, journaling or art therapy. And make sure to get plenty of rest so you can wake up refreshed and ready to handle the challenges that come with returning to work after a disability.


 




How to Help Your NEW Employee Make a Smooth Relocation

In today’s economy, many companies are finding it challenging to attract the talent they need to fill specific roles. Often that can mean finding a new hire or recruiting an existing employee from another city who would consider relocating for a new position. In fact, one study found that more than half of those surveyed said they had moved for a job in the past, with 80 percent saying they had considered it. Most said they wanted:

  • a better career opportunity
  • a change or a fresh start
  • a lower cost of living 

If you have employees relocating to your company—whether they are coming from a different branch or a different firm altogether—there are steps you can take to help them feel welcome.

Learn About Their Needs

The needs of a young single will be vastly different from a married couple with kids. One strategy is to create a questionnaire to find out what the new employee wants or needs in terms of a living situation, whether it’s the best school district in your area, or proximity to shopping and other cultural amenities. Finding out their interests can help you point them in the right direction to hunt for housing, and also can help you pair them with a similar employee, if possible, to help show them around the city.

Be a City Ambassador

Is your region known for outdoor adventures or nightlife? Are there art walks during the summer or fall festivals that everyone attends? Put together a little packet of interesting local information on your town.  It will help the new hire find the best pizza place or be in the know about the exhibits coming to the local art museum.

Connect Your New Hire with Local Specialists

Whether your new employee will be buying or renting, you’ll want to connect them with a local real estate agent who knows the lay of the land. If you have frequent relocations, consider finding a firm that will informally “partner” with you. Building these resources will help you help your new hires find the best neighborhood and situation for them.  Many real estate firms have agents who specialize in relocations or are experts in specific neighborhoods.

You also can help connect them with local services from cable TV and utilities to the nearest DMV to make their move as smooth as possible. You might consider also building a package that provides the details for all of these essential services. Don’t forget the family members—including their furry ones. Having the whole family on board for the move is going to make it smoother for the employee, which is good for the entire company.

Establish and Communicate Your Policies

Companies that regularly help employees relocate might have a robust roster of services. This includes a complete move to a temporary rental.  Companies that relocate employees less often might let workers handle the details (and expenses) themselves. It is important to communicate with the new employee exactly what is covered so there are no misunderstandings down the line.

Give a Special On-Boarding

While every new hire feels a certain amount of “culture shock” and needs to be acclimated, the feeling can be more acute in one who is brand new to the area, not just to your company. That’s why your regular onboarding should also include plenty of interpersonal information. It’s important to make them feel welcome in a place where they might not know a soul. Prepare to have their direct manager work with the team to be proactive about welcoming them.  It is a great idea to have the manager pair them with someone who has agreed to be their “go-to” person.  This is ideally someone who is a good match based on some of the demographic information you collected earlier.

Pay Extra Attention to Local Benefits Information

Programs you offer might be the same no matter where an employee is, but some might be impacted by region. For example, one location might offer gym memberships or public transportation reimbursement. As part of the transition, be prepared to take extra time to discuss the company’s medical benefits. A newly relocated employee might have specific questions about which hospitals are closest or where to find an orthodontist. This is also a great time to talk with them about what they need to know about disability insurance. This includes information about  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, if applicable.

An employee who has relocated to your company can add a special layer with fresh ideas and perspective. The goal is to make them feel welcome so that their new town and new company feel like “home” in no time.  The time you and your company take to support a new hire transition now will help in retaining that employee for the longterm.




Reversing Burnout Series :: Nailing Your To-Be List

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


The previous parts of this series included  mastering the pastseeing our own big picture, and knowing when it may be time to pivot have helped us know where we stand.  We can continue to use our “margin” time to map out the places we would like to be in terms of our career, relationship with family and friends, finances, personal growth and development, and our connection to others.  In order to effectively design the path to connect us to our best selves and better future, we need to be sure of our starting point and the obstacles that could be in our way.


 

Imagine Your Best Self

Imagine how much more content and less stressful life would be if you could “do you” really well and effectively… and do so ALL the time?
The first steps in the process is to imagine being your best self, and for most this includes:

  • doing excellent work
  • doing what we do best every day
  • growing and advancing
  • having a life and impact beyond our career alone

The good news is that these are ALL possible and in our control.  Once we imagine them, we can begin to take the necessary steps to realize them.


 

Get in the Flow

Getting in the flow of our best selves will typically require that we answer “yes” to the following:

  • Do I strive for excellence at work?
  • Do I routinely deploy my best skills, talents, assets, gifts, and experiences?
  • Do I seek opportunities to continuously grow personally and professionally?
  • Am I known and revered outside the office?

These are high bars for sure… but don’t we all at least have that small voice inside reminding us that we aspire to achieve them?… and don’t we also want to inspire others to reach for these too? At any given time, we fall short… but at any given time we can also close the gap.


 

Analyze the Gap

We can perform a gap analysis and design a strategy to close the gap once we know: where we stand, where we want to be, and what’s holding us back. The previous parts of this series related to mastering our pastseeing our own big picture, and knowing when it may be time to pivot have helped us know where we stand.   We can continue to use our “margin” time to map out the places we would like to be in terms of our career, relationship with family and friends, finances, personal growth and development, and our connection to others. In order to design the path to connect us to our best selves and better future, we need to be sure of our starting point and the obstacles that could be in our way.

If you answered “no”, “I don’t know”, or “I’m not sure” then ask “why” at least four times to get to the root issue.

For example, why don’t I strive for excellence at work the way I once did?

  • Answer: I don’t really feel it anymore.  Why?
  • Answer: I have lost my motivation.  Why?
  • Answer: I’m doing the same old thing.  Why?
  • Answer: The work is the work and nobody is talking to me about anything different.

Real issues to be considered:  Loss of efficacy, burnout, disengagement, no paths available for growth, employee connected with an ineffective boss.

 

Another example:

I can’t say that I routinely deploy my best skills, talents, assets, gifts, and experiences.  Why?

  • Answer:  They’re not called for in my job.  Why?
  • Answer:  Ok, it is expected that I keep growing and leverage my work skills, talents, and experiences on the job, but not that other stuff.  Why?
  • Answer:  That’s just not part of the work; work and life are mostly compartmentalized.  Why?
  • Answer:  I guess that’s just the way it’s always been.

Real Issues to be considered: a lack of awareness of what each of these elements are and/or a lack of knowledge on how best to develop and leverage them to improve engagement, growth, and performance in today’s workplace. Once we know the real reasons for each of the “non-yes” questions above, we can begin to retarget toward the places we want to be.

 


 

Take Action

Identify three steps to move closer to where you want to be in terms of work, family and friends, finances, personal growth and development, and connections with others. As a way to get started, many high-achieving professionals and business owners identify steps from answering some version of the following questions. Take one step toward your targets each week… and then keep going.

Work: In terms of work, it could be establishing a long-term career plan and then sitting down with your supervisor to begin a new dialogue about creating a better future.   

  • What stops me from excelling at work?
  • Does work allow me to see, develop, and leverage my skills, talents, assets, gifts, and experiences?  If not, what other pursuits would allow me to develop and deploy them?

Family and Friends: In terms of family and friends, it could be scheduling a date-night with your significant other or picking up the phone to call a friend to make plans.

  • Do I have all the relationships I want at home and with friends?
  • Are the relationships I have in development, growing, maturing, or peaking phases… or are they in a decline and in need of a refresh?

Finances: In terms of finances, it could be establishing that long-term plan for more financial freedom.  

  • Do I have a savings and retirement “number”?  Am I on track?
  • Does my income exceed my expenses… and how can I increase the former and decrease (and avoid adding to) the latter to create more financial freedom?

Personal Growth and Development: In terms of personal growth, it can be reading a book, subscribing to a podcast, and committing to an exercise plan.

  • Am I growing personally, spiritually, and in terms of my physical health?
  • Am I taking on new experiences that push me out of my “comfort zone” and expand my horizons?

Connection with Others: In terms of connecting with others, it could be reaching out to a local non-profit to take a tour and learn more.

  • Do I know my passions outside of my work and family?
  • Am I learning more about issues that upset me and the causes that inspire me?… and am I taking action to make a difference?

Once we retarget, we can develop our “to-do” list and begin to bridge the gaps.  This process of moving forward step by step helps us to revitalize.

  • Begin to Revitalize  

 

In my case, in order to stay on track and begin to realize the full life I desired, I needed to see all my priorities at once.  To do so, I redesigned my weekly “to-do” list.  A previously “all-work” list transformed to a 6-box list with 2 columns and 3 rows with a “to-do” box related to: work, family, personal growth, professional growth, non-profit and community connection activities, and other items related to miscellaneous appointments, errands, or home projects.

Well informed and developed “to-do” lists can be designed to take us from where we are to where we want to be.   Taking action is what moves us to become our best self.   We can celebrate each step toward our targets as one step closer to being able to say… “nailed it!”


 

This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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Reversing Burnout Series :: Knowing When to Pivot

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


Many of us have a sense that something may be off. That is, we may be tracking off-course, or that we may not even be on the right track anymore.  As a result, many of us are considering whether we need to pivot.
Given the desperate need for good talent and the high cost of employee turnover in today’s job market, this is a scary proposition for many employers. It shouldn’t be, however, if they are seeking to truly engage and develop their employees.

The fact is, some form of “pivoting” is the only way to avoid a decline.  Even if we know we are on the right track, we need to continuously pivot to progress and refresh along the way. Individuals who understand growth cycles, work-life seasons, and what is means to live a full life will be positioned to enjoy continued growth and success at the office and beyond.  When top talent has the choice to stay, be engaged, and grow, employers will be more apt to embrace cycles and design strategies to support that demand, and create opportunities for growth.


 

Cycles Within the Cycle

Just like cell regeneration patterns and planetary movements, as humans, we have growth changes within our overall career life cycles.  Over the course of my 24-years as a professional engineer, there were several sets of “learning and development”, “growth”, and “peaking” stages at each level of career advancement.  My movement from project engineer to project manager to principal to senior executive to “what’s next” were clearly marked in 5-year increments.  Each cycle along the path was critical to keeping me moving forward.


“Knowing exactly when to begin the pivot or refresh process requires the knowledge of cycles, vision of where you want to be, and the courage to act.”

 -Peter C. Atherton


 

The Personal Refresh

High-achievers, in general, follow a similar pattern of continuous growth through a series of advancements. Traditional leaders and organizations encourage and endorse this. However, especially today when is it clear that top talent wants more than just traditional success, this approach is short-sighted.  Once we’ve “mastered our craft” and “made our name,” pure professional pursuits begin to lose luster, even for the most driven employees.  Many successful professionals and business owners with 15 or more years of experience are feeling discontentedburned-out, and disengaged with business as usual.

Personal career stagnation can occur and a “personal refresh” needed, even when their organization has taken intentional steps to improve workflow and culture, .  This reset is needed personal growth and development that provides balance for our professional success. Once refreshed, we are in a position to regain perspective on both our lives and careers. Only then can we begin to develop a plan for continued and sustained success.  That success could be continuing on our current path, refreshing in place, or pivoting in a new direction. Without some form of continuous personal growth and development (or at least mid-career reboot), we are likely to realize the fate of most senior staffers and leaders in terms of losing emotional intelligence.

Regaining and maintaining our self and overall personal awareness is key to our overall professional growth and effectiveness.


 

The Process

The process of a refresh or a pivot is just that – a process.  The optimal time for either option is during the later portions of a growth phase. The goal is to continually push off the peaking and decline stages as illustrated in the graph below.

This is a process. To get through it, I needed a time-out with patience, support and tough love.  Allowing myself this opportunity,  helped me to understand where my  professional and personal interests and passions intersected. Ultimately, it pushed me to design a pivot from a comfortable and lucrative career I could have coasted in for decades.  This process is ideally done with the aid of an experienced coach, one who can guide you through the various steps and customize them for your unique career path, personal situation, and work-life seasons.  You can view some tips for starting your refresh on my blog as well.


 

This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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Reversing Burnout Series :: Mastering the Past

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


High-achieving professionals and business owners are focused on the future.  Even after significant “wins”, the focus for many of us quickly shifts to “what’s next”.  Over the long-term, this can lead to burnout, discontent, and feeling of being trapped; even isolated. If we take the time to connect with our past, it can boost self-awareness and confidence and better position us for success in both work and life.


Understanding the Habits of Winning

High-achievers do things that many others don’t or won’t, and even do things that others might not have previously thought possible.  They have a commitment to excellence and winning.  This commitment is vital to establishing success as a professional and business owner.  Following through on commitments also helps build character and self-esteem.

Whatever motivates to pursue our own path – the challenge, the paycheck, the standing in society, or the expectations of others – a full commitment is necessary.  Early on, most of us needed to take ownership to target a direction for our lives and focus our time to realize our future.  This demanded that we select a school and a major, get through 8:00 a.m. classes and a challenging curriculum. We needed to secure and succeed in internships and residencies, and we needed to pass tests for licenses and certifications.  We formed the habits needed for success.

At some point, however, many of us lost some ownership in the details and the direction of our lives.

 


The Silent Price of Commitment

For virtually all professions, achieving requires us to be “all in” for an extended period – often 10, 20, or even 30 years.  That is what it takes to master our craft, make a name, and build our platform.   There is so much to learn on the job, especially in the early years, and the commitment it requires can be consuming, both in a positive and productive way… but it can also work against us.

Unfortunately, professional and entrepreneurial success is more about applied knowledge than it is about information alone.  We need to make judgments and often operate in gray areas.  As a result, we gain both experience and understanding.  There is no other way to do this than to spend the appropriate amount of time in our craft to learn, do, fail, and seek more opportunities; then, repeat.

Over time, our commitment to our careers can cause us to lose touch with ourselves and others, lose track of our accomplishments, and lose clarity of where things may be heading.

 


Master the Past

On this journey, it is easy for us to become burned-out, disengagedtrapped, or even isolated. When that occurs, we need to take inventory and connect with our past.  This exercise demands that we take the time to recognize, appreciate, and preserve our successes to date. It is essential to better understand our present to achieve our desired future.  A well-planned sabbatical can help in this process.

Before I had the conviction to give my final 2-year notice to my partners, I went through a process of accounting for and documenting my past successes.  This all began by chance when my son asked me to review his college co-op resume.  As a father and professional, I was impressed, not just with the content, but with the format. The flow was different than I remembered as a candidate myself, as well as what I had seen from candidates interested in joining our firm.

I then realized it had been over 15 years since I last developed a resume for myself, and probably a good time to take stock.  Even though mine was a corporate resume, it was not nearly the same; a corporate resume focuses only on industry projects, positions, and roles.  I decided to build a more complete resume and began to use the “margin” I created in my life to do so. I modified the format to better reflect components representative of a 20 plus year career.  This newer format helped me highlight my skills, qualities, and career progression, as well as my work outside of the office.

As I documented my progression and achievements, I felt like I began to enjoy them – some for the first time. Having these documented, and being able to reflect on them, helped me put my successes into perspective. I also began to recognize and become excited about transferable skills and experiences that could be used for greater impact beyond what I was currently doing.  This helped build up my confidence and give me the courage to venture into a new chapter of my career.

 


How to Take Stock in the Past for a Productive Future

Using your resume as a means to check in with yourself and your past, is key to helping shape the future you want.  You can use the “margin” established here over the next several weeks to help in your efforts.

Take the time to account for and document:

  • Your overarching level of achievement,
  • Your professional highlights and personal qualities,
  • The details of your various roles, duties, formed skills, and achieved outcomes for each level of your career progression,
  • Your roles, experiences, and impact outside of the office,
  • Your educational achievements, certifications, and awards earned, and
  • Any other personal skills, hobbies, and interests that help round-out who you are.

Your updated resume will help you gain perspective and much greater awareness. As a result, you will be able to recognize and celebrate the full scope of your accomplishments. In turn, you will now be better positioned to close any gaps between the life you have and the one you desire.  All the while you will form new winning habits that will help you reverse and avoid burnout.


This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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How Companies Can Ensure Employees Feel Supported While on Leave


By Gene Lanzoni, Marketing, Thought Leadership, Customer Insights 
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America


 

With the expansion of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) more than a decade ago, employers have become more aware of their responsibilities with not only how to stay compliant, but the role they play in helping employees return to work. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lost productivity due to absenteeism in the U.S. cost employers $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee. In today’s competitive labor market, many employers are looking for ways to retain their employees and adopting leave practices that help employees return to work from an extended absence due to injury or disability is becoming a priority.

As such, employers are responding with more personalized leave management and more robust stay-at-work (SAW) accommodations. Guardian’s most recent biennial Absence Management Activity Index and Study–“The Value of Leave Management Integration,” found three in four employers with a high level of return-to-work (RTW) and SAW programs reported decreased absenteeism, compared to only 40% of companies with no formal SAW program.

Guardian’s study also reveals employers are paying greater attention to the employee experience, one that offers a more supportive environment with additional flexibility, resources, and education. Employers seeking to upgrade their absence management programs to generate positive outcomes like high employee satisfaction and retention should consider the following:

Better Return-to-Work and Stay-at-Work Accommodations 

While it’s important to communicate with employees throughout their disability leave, it’s equally important to provide them with a smooth transition back to work. Employers should establish a strong RTW program that guides employees in a way that makes them feel supported. Guardian’s study indicates 70% of employees who completed an RTW program feel their employer cares about them. Additionally, companies that have four to six RTW initiatives see a 78% reduction in lost time, compared with 48% of companies that have no RTW initiatives. 

Employers have become more aware of their responsibilities under the ADA and are identifying ways to help their employees stay at work following an absence. These activities have expanded beyond traditional vocational rehabilitation to include interactive processes, transitional work plans, and worksite modifications to accommodate employees with disabilities. Providing employees with resources like nurse case management and duration guidelines can help reduce the likelihood of a relapse. Guardian’s study found organizations with the most comprehensive RTW programs appear to achieve greater success reducing lost time and improving employee retention. 


Flexibility and Personalization Go a Long Way 

Today’s technology makes it easy to communicate and inform a company’s workforce through various channels. So, it’s not surprising our study reveals that the accessibility of information has a great influence on employees when they are on leave. Every employee has a preference of how they’d like to communicate with their employer about leave, and Guardian’s study finds the majority of employees prefer to have 24/7 access to personal and mobile communications.

Employers that leverage new technology, including automated dialers, text messaging and chats are leaders in the absence management space because they demonstrate a willingness to accommodate to an employee’s schedule and individual needs. In fact, Guardian’s study reveals 21% of Index leaders use automated dialing technology, compared with 9% that lag on program improvements. The same goes for interactive voice response systems – 16% of Index leaders leverage this technology, compared with only 7% of those that rank lower in the Index. 

At the end of the day, many employees want to work for a company they feel cares about their well-being and that will help them navigate the journey through their disability. The data collected from Guardian’s Absence Management Activity IndexSM and Study supports the notion that employers who prioritize these programs see positive results in employee satisfaction and overall retention.


Unless otherwise noted, the source of all information is from the 2019 Guardian Absence Management Activity Index℠ and Study – “The Value of Leave Management Integration.




Reversing Burnout Series: Design Your Daily Personal Time Off

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


Personal Time Off (PTO) s great; it’s a chance to get away, to disconnect from work, and even have some rest and relaxation. Taken routinely, PTO is an effective strategy to reduce work stress, but it will not cure or help you avoid burnout by itself.  For that, we need to design ourselves a more frequent form of PTO, a daily “Personal Time-Out”.

Creating and maintaining “margin” in our day, and using it strategically, is the only way to effectively reverse and avoid burnout and live the full life we desire.  This is especially true for those of us who are high-achievers and often consumed by the demands of work and life.


Mastering Our Time

Busyness is both pervasive and invasive.  Allowed to persist, busyness chokes out and overruns much of what we desire in life.   If we want to master our lives, we need to resolve our busyness.  The first step is to take ownership and regain control of our time.  When we control our time, we can control our destiny.

Taking Control

For many, it might require we say “no” to things that we typically say yes to, and taking control when we can’t anticipate the outcome.  It means we may have to “defend” the need for some “me” time. At one point we may have known what we wanted out of work and life, but have since lost touch, track, and clarity.  Even if we have “checked the boxes” of the goals that previously drove us, most high-achievers reach a point where we can feel disconnected, discontented, frustrated, and even resentful – especially if we are in or headed toward the burnout-disengagement cycle.

Values and Urgency

As I explain in my book, Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, many of us have invested so much in our careers that it has become our identity.   As we progress in life this becomes even more problematic as the gaps between “what we do”, “who we are”, and our life purpose drives discontent.  These gaps also impact our ability to lead and inspire others.  If we want to truly succeed, we also need a renewed sense of urgency about our time.

We never stop getting older.  The fact is, our days are numbered on this earth and we have no real control of when our time will be up.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and this should be our motivation to take action beginning today!  Time is our greatest asset in terms of achieving our goals and realizing our impact, but we can’t take it for granted.  We know that we don’t want to miss out any longer and that we may need a course correction.  But here’s the reality: We will never discover the things we value most and begin to track toward the full life we desire and our greater purpose until we slow down.  

Margin

Creating and maintaining margin is an essential component to slowing down and being able to master our time.  “Margin” is quiet time and personal “white space,” away from devices and distractions.   To be effective, margin time needs to be sufficient in length and consistent in frequency. The target for most of us should be 30 to 60 minutes per day at least 5 days per week.  Margin is not just about time to rest and relax, its foundational to the R&R 2.0 process.   


R&R 2.0

PTO and the “rest and relaxation” of our past can help us address some of the demands and stresses of work and life, but it needs to be updated and expanded if we are going to take on burnout and position us to win over the long-term. Rest and relaxation alone only address being physically or emotionally exhausted as a result of a temporary season or event.  On the other hand, burnout is a chronic condition that layers frustration and loss, and even resentment and despair, on top of physical and emotional exhaustion.   Reversing and avoiding burnout requires a deeper, more strategic, and more consistent approach.   

Once established, margin is the daily “Personal Time-Out” we need to begin to restore ourselves if we have been feeling burned-out, disengaged, and feeling like we are missing out.  This time to routinely decompress, rest, pray, meditate, listen, think, contemplate, read, journal, and reflect allows for clarity and positions us for Restoration.  Once restored, this time is then repurposed for the next elements of the process which include RediscoveryRetargeting, and Revitalization toward the life we desire.  

 


This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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Reversing Burnout Series :: Why Sabbaticals Work

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


A well-designed and implemented sabbatical program is a simple and effective way to combat the growing epidemic of burnout and disengagement in today’s workplace and ensures your organization’s success over the long-term.  At least, right now, it can position you and your organization to be different, better and more attractive in the job marketplace.

 


Below are Key Benefits of an Effective Sabbatical Program:

  1. Planned Refresh Cycles

    Top organizations realize that achieving professionals are human too, and more than ever, they need routine refresh cycles… and likely need them every 5 to 7 years! These routine refreshes are needed to push off the inevitable peaking and declining phases.  They are also needed to combat the ill effects of the all-consuming lifestyle of today’s working class.

    A well-timed refresh will allow an employee to RestoreRediscoverRetarget, and Revitalize aspects of their personal and professional lives, and help them reverse and avoid the Burnout-Disengagement Cycle. Even for those who are consistent with taking their paid time off, nothing beats a well designed sabbatical; it provides the time and space for employees to take their personal and professional growth to a whole new level. A sabbatical can be up to a  four-month period of time away.  This planned time away helps to increase overall awareness and emotional intelligence… both of which improve one’s ability to connect and relate to others and their performance as employees, leaders, and client-servers upon their return to work.

    As a result, employees are able to focus on aspects of their lives that may have gone neglected.  Providing space for awareness, sabbaticals open up opportunity for employees to gain perspective as well as much needed appreciation for the lives they live and their work’s purpose. For those that take the time, it ultimately provides a gateway for living a full life with less regrets and discontent.  

    A routine sabbatical is even more critical for those who are, and have been, less diligent with either form of “PTO”.  This is where a caring and strategic leadership team can make a real difference for its top talent and for its organization.  And, while top talent is refreshing, top organizations have the opportunity to benefit, especially in the areas of resilience testing, succession planning, and internal development – areas that are often overlooked, postponed, or abandoned in our busyness.  

  2. Healthy Resilience Testing and Effective Succession Planning
    Taking a class is great, but taking one online on your employee’s own time can be even more appealing (and more realistic) for many. There are a number of free or cost-effective courses available through services like Lynda/LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, as well as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), that you can encourage employees to check out. To expand the knowledge to the entire team, implement a “lunch and learn” where attendees share with others.
  3. Designed Teamwork and Talent Development
    Check out this link of professional associations to find something that will apply to your business. Whether it’s a national agency or local group, there are often a wide variety of development opportunities available with membership fees. There are networking events, speaker forums, and conferences. As a member, your employees get special access to proprietary events and educational materials.
  4. Differentiator in the Marketplace
    Don’t let your employees become bored on the job. Find out what skills they might want to hone and search for opportunities to let them practice them. Whether it’s on a company-wide task force or by doing an inter-departmental rotation, it will keep your employees engaged with a new challenge. Ultimately, it allows your company to operate more smoothly as your team better understands various roles.


Take Action Now + Win Top Talent

Don’t be left in the dust! The benefits of an effective sabbatical program, especially in professional service organizations, are so clear that it is just a matter of time before your competitors develop one as an essential strategy to attract, engage, develop, and retain top talent. If you don’t want your organization to fall behind, create a plan for a sabbatical program now.  An effective program can be one aspect of an organization’s overall performance management and employee engagement and development strategy.  One method that can be particularly effective in developing and refining this overall strategy is the I.M.P.A.C.T. Process. Designing systems for your best talent to be their best-selves will position your organization to be its best-self… and will position you to win in both the marketplace and the “talent war”.


This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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How Taking Time Off is Good for Employee Engagement


It’s officially summer!  As vacation season kicks off, it is a good time for HR teams to encourage the value of taking a break.  As we all know, vacations are important for emotional and physical health of employees.  In fact, studies show that they build a far more engaged, happy, and productive workforce.

Unlike other developed countries, the United States has no mandated number of days off for employees. A quarter of Americans have no paid vacations at all. This has an impact on wellness. 

A 2017 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 61 percent of workers self-identified as burned out in their current job. Of those workers, 31 percent reported high or extremely high levels of stress at work. A third of all workers said they had no plans to take a vacation that year.

Why People Don’t Take Time Off

A survey from Project Time Off in 2017 reveals a key reason why people are avoiding vacations: they think it makes them look like a less committed worker. Thirty eight percent of employees wanted their boss to see them as  as “a work martyr”. Yet, according to the report those four-in-ten employees do not understand work martyrdom does not necessarily advance their careers.  In fact, it may be hurting them.

“These self-proclaimed work martyrs are less likely (79 to 84 percent) to report receiving a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who do not subscribe to the work martyr myth. When it comes to promotions, they are no more likely to have received a promotion in the last year than the average worker (28 percent). This shows that the work martyr attitude is not helping anyone get ahead.”

Melinda Gates addressed this topic in her first LinkedIn post after Microsite acquired the platform in 2017 — pointing out how this workaholic culture can be particularly damaging for women. “The American workweek has soared from less than 40 hours to nearly 50 in the time since that issue of Fortune was published,” she wrote. “Technology has made it harder to pull away from our jobs, and easier to wonder whether a night off or a long weekend is damaging our careers.

Benefits of Summer Vacation

New data from a O.C. Tanner survey shows a clear correlation between those who take regular vacations and their overall emotional health and happiness on the job.

Sixty six percent of respondents said they take vacations at least one week or longer during the summer months. Nearly the same percentage (67 percent) said it is somewhat or extremely important for them to do so. This is what they then found in the regular vacationers:

  • Dedication to the Job: 70 percent of respondents say they are highly motivated to contribute to the success of the organization, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • A Sense of Belonging: 63 percent of respondents say they feel a sense of belonging at the company where they currently work, as opposed to only 43 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • Loyalty: 65 percent of respondents say they have a strong desire to be working for their organization one year from now, as opposed to 51 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • Viewed as a Good Employer: 65 percent of respondents say their organization has a reputation for being a good employer whose people do great work, as opposed to just 46 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.

In another example discussed in Harvard Business Review, one company implemented a mandatory week off once every seven weeks for all staff. The result? “Creativity went up 33 percent, happiness levels rose 25 percent, and productivity increased 13 percent.” The company concluded that once every seven weeks was perhaps excessive, but nonetheless the sheer productivity and creativity that came from having a rested and recharged workforce benefited the entire organization.

So the next time you hear a manager complain about a worker requesting a vacation, show them the data. And if you haven’t already, now is the time to be instituting a positive and proactive vacation policy.




Podcast: Living and Working With Endometriosis



Introduction

Carol Harnett [00:00:00] Hi everyone, this is Carol Harnett. I’m the president of The Council for Disability Awareness. Welcome to our show: the Financial Health and Income Network.  I am very excited to launch what we hope will be a continuing series with people who are working and living with chronic conditions, illnesses and diseases.  I am so pleased to say that our first topic will be on endometriosis.

 


You can hear the full podcast or if you’d rather read than listen, we captured the transcript from the conversation below.


 

Carol Harnett [00:00:32] I’ve worked in and around healthcare my whole life, and worked around the data in healthcare my entire career, and I have never thought about endometriosis as a separate category.  What brought it to my attention is my guest, Tawnia Jacobson. She is a nurse who has a master’s degree in Science with a concentration in Biology, and is also a Certified Nurse Anesthetist.

I often put firewalls between the different parts of my life. This is one of those times when I let the different parts of my life blend together. Tawnia is also my CycleBar instructor, and that is how I came to know her. She did something that I think has a high degree of impact for everyone around health and particularly for women with endometriosis.

During the month of March, which is an awareness month for endometriosis, she shared publicly through her Instagram account, her experience with endometriosis along with a lot of very important facts. The one that captured me the most is that 1 in 10 women in the United States have endometriosis, which is the same as the diabetes rate in the United States.

When we think about the amount of time and energy that we put around diabetes, which we should, we don’t put any time and energy around addressing endometriosis. So, Tawnia, thank you so much for being willing to join us today and talk with us and educate us on this topic.  

Tawnia Jacobson [00:02:05.40] Absolutely Carol. Thank you so much for having me.  This is an extremely important topic for everybody, but obviously near and dear to my heart with personal experience.

Carol Harnett [0:02:18.42]: For that reason, I want to turn a lot of the show over to you. I would love you to start, if you don’t mind, first with grounding people with a definition of what endometriosis is, and then your story as it relates to that.

Defining Endometriosis

Tawnia Jacobson [02:37.08]: Endometriosis, by definition, is a systemic disease that occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus is found elsewhere in the body, mostly in the pelvis or the pelvic cavity. But it can also appear on the bladder,  the bowel, the lungs (into the diaphragm) , and even the brain, in worst-case scenarios.

It causes pain, organ dysfunction, and infertility. The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are many theories surrounding it.  Genetics, stem cells, blood and lymph system distribution are all possibilities. Inflammation is a key factor, and they believe that maybe some environmental toxins may be linked to it.  Again, no definitive cause, and the diagnosis unfortunately takes a very long time. As Carol mentioned, the prevalence is extremely high, it’s 1 in 10 women. So if you yourself don’t have it, absolutely somebody you know has it or may not even know that they have it, but are experiencing signs and symptoms of having endometriosis.

A Challenging Diagnosis

Tawnia Jacobson [0:04:00.16]: A lot of people ask why it takes so long to diagnose and it’s mainly because most obstetrics and gynecology doctors themselves don’t even know that much about it. The average patient will see eight to ten doctors before they receive an actual diagnosis. After years and years of pain and suffering, many patients are told that it’s “in their head”, that it’s just “IBS” — irritable bowel syndrome — because so many of us have so many bowel symptoms that go along with this.

When it’s confused to be a GI issue, you might be sent away from your GYN (gynecologist), to a gastroenterologist and go through every process and procedure known to man for that, and really that’s not the initial cause. With a lot of confusion and pain, it becomes a mental battle and game for many patients and it’s very frustrating.

I can now back up and talk about my story.

Tawnia Jacobson | Symptoms: Pain, Heavy Menstrual Bleeding, Fatigue, Migraines

Tawnia Jacobson [0:05:05.25]: I would say that this whole thing probably started for me when I started menstruating at the age of 16. With heavy, heavy bleeding, I missed many days of high school. I was fatigued. I would get headaches. My mother actually had a history of very heavy periods as well, and had a hysterectomy at the age of 30 because of heavy bleeding. She couldn’t handle it anymore. At the time, whether they knew or not that she had endometriosis has really been left to be discovered, but it doesn’t matter. They performed a hysterectomy to treat her pain and bleeding, and that’s all I know. My mom kind of just said, “Yeah, I had really bad periods, too,” and we went about business and life. When I moved to college, the pain was worse. I would be knocked out for at least a week at a time in addition to the week of premenstrual symptoms.

One Solution | Birth Control

Tawnia Jacobson [0:06.10.01]: I finally started seeing a GYN (gynecologist) early in college who suggested birth control. She diagnosed me with menstrual migraines. She thought if we could even out my hormone swings it would prevent my migraines. Then, obviously, if I wasn’t bleeding, I wouldn’t have as much pain or symptoms of cramping and bleeding.

I went on birth control early on, probably by the time I was 19, and stayed on birth control for about 7 years. I came off birth control at about 2008; (we can talk a little bit more about how birth control can suppress endometriosis symptoms later).

Without being able to remember too much, in general, I just always felt crappy around my period. I was exhausted. There were probably days — many days — when I called out of work. But the bleeding was so intense that I would have to take extra clothes with me everywhere I went because I would easily bleed through what I had on.

Again, I was just always told it was normal. Even my GYN was like, “Yeah”, some people just get this. This is normal.” She offered me narcotics to deal with the pain. I never took them as I am not the type of person who would even take Ibuprofen regularly. So I spent a lot of time in bed, a lot of time sleeping with heating pads, and just dealing with it.  This continued for years and years.

Next Step | Trying to Conceive

Tawnia Jacobson [0:07.45.76]: I think the next step in my journey came when my husband and I decided to start trying for a family. Probably around 2014, we became more active in trying. And even though I had been off of birth control since 2008, we were obviously not preventing pregnancy, but it hadn’t happened. But 2014 is when we started to try a little bit more actively.

I was feeling a lot more left lower quadrant pain, and I think once you become hyper-focused on your schedule and looking at a calendar all the time,  you start to become very in-tune with your body. I was just noticing so many things. So I sat down and talked to my GYN about it. She said, “Let’s start by getting some labs and do an ultrasound, so that we can  rule out cysts.”

At the time I didn’t have any signs or symptoms of ovarian cysts other than just pain which seemed to be focused in my left lower quadrant.  Labs came back and showed that I had a low AMH, which is an Anti-Müllerian hormone. This test is fairly new. They’ve been using it maybe 10 to 12 years. So again, six years ago or five years ago, or however long it was I got this information, my GYN  didn’t feel that comfortable with dealing with it. She said, “With this information, it means you have a low ovarian reserve, and I’m not really sure how to treat you moving forward. I need to send you to a fertility specialist.”

This was obviously devastating news, and not what you want to hear when you’re just starting your journey.  But I thought, “Great! This is a specialist, somebody who is going to listen a little bit more to my symptoms and put a little more thought into my cycle and what has been going on for years.”

A Specialist, and Diagnostic Laparoscopy

Tawnia Jacobson [0:09.36.93]: We went on that journey, and have been on that journey for the past four years. It has been equal parts devastating and frustrating, but it was during that time that we all, as a team, made the decision that I probably most likely had endometriosis. The only problem was, the only way to diagnose endometriosis is via invasive surgical procedure. You have to have a diagnostic laparoscopy in order to obtain a sample of tissue to send to pathology for diagnosis. It was years of frustration and a lot of changes to my cycles, (very short cycles). Another thing to add is that after we were told we wouldn’t conceive naturally, I did conceive naturally.  Unfortunately I sustained a miscarriage at about 10 to 11 weeks. It was at that point that my cycles seemed to be even more sporadic and painful. It was then that I finally said, “Okay, I have to do something, so let’s have surgery.”

In 2017 I had my first surgery by a fertility specialist who claimed that he could fix my endometriosis and get me pregnant. I trusted him and I went through surgery. Within three months, my symptoms were worse than they had been before. I was in a very ugly place mentally and emotionally, and I was begging for a birth control again because I said, “I can’t continue feeling like this. I’m not myself. It hurts every day.”  It went from being painful a week to two weeks out of the month to three to four weeks out of the month. There were very few good days. I was keeping a calendar. I was keeping food diaries. It was consuming my life and it was miserable. So I begged and pleaded for birth control, and he talked me out of it because he said, “You are looking to start a family” and I said, “I understand that but this isn’t working.” So instead he put me on Clomid.

I took a course of Clomid hoping to get pregnant, but instead I ended up getting a grapefruit-sized cyst.  Luckily it did not require surgical resection, but I endured many, many days of pain until it rectified itself. After that, I foolishly put myself on a course of DHEA hoping that would improve my egg supply for getting pregnant once again; not realizing that those are the worst things you can do for endometriosis.

Breakthrough

Tawnia Jacobson [0:12.20.51]: By the fall of 2017,  I was just in a really bad place.  It was not good for my relationships. It was not good for my marriage. I knew that I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what I needed to do.

As fate would have it, one of my neighbors and I were talking one day. We had just built a house in a new development and she was a new neighbor. We were talking about infertility. She mentioned that she had endometriosis as well, and she led me down the path of Nancy’s Nook, which is an endometriosis education forum on Facebook that literally changed my life.

I went on there and I read for a couple of hours every day. I learned more than I ever learned about endometriosis in my entire life in about four hours, and it changed my life. It was Nancy’s Nook who educated me, who ultimately led me to my surgeon, who performed excision surgery, which is the gold standard for treatment right now. I had surgery last March and have felt like a new person ever since then.

Carol Harnett [0:13:34.05]: Wow, as I was listening, you probably heard me gasping because it’s incredible to listen to your experience in one fell swoop. I can’t imagine what that was like to live through.

Tawnia Jacobson [0:13.49.22]: I try to keep it as condensed possible, but it was many, many years of suffering, and many years going in the wrong direction.

I mentioned keeping food diaries.  I changed my diet so many times. I had tried gluten-free and dairy-free. It was around that time that I actually got pregnant. Part of me was like “Wow, is that what it takes?” Then I eventually went vegan; I had cut out all meat. If you read a little bit more about endometriosis, you realize that they encourage an anti-inflammatory diet. A lot of that means getting rid of red meat. My husband and I tried vegan for a while, and none of this was helping any of my symptoms. It was basically just torturing me more mentally because it was all-consuming.

Finally, The Right Surgeon, The Right Procedure

Tawnia Jacobson [0:14.32.20]: I talked about meeting the surgeon who basically changed my life. It was the excision surgery that changed my life. It was the appropriate treatment. My first surgery was ablation, which means they burn the tissue.  They don’t actually get rid of it, they just burn it, and hope to prevent it from growing back. The tissue, I guess it could be described as an iceberg. The tissue that you see is visible endometriosis, but lives much deeper than that. The part of the iceberg that you don’t see below the surface is actually the problem. You burn what you see, but you leave behind what you don’t see, and it will continue to grow. Since you’re in there basically irritating it, making it more angry, the endometriosis becomes worse. That’s why when I had my first surgery, within three to four months, I was feeling worse than I did before. We made it angry. Until I went to the correct surgeon and had the proper procedure done, my symptoms weren’t going to get any better.

Since having surgery, (a four-hour procedure), I was diagnosed with moderate endometriosis.
I did not have it on my diaphragm, Thank God, but  it was covering much of my pelvic orifice. It was growing on both ovaries and wrapped around ligaments. I had right leg pain that nobody ever paid any attention to but me. I would live from day-to-day, working out regularly, and then I would have to take one to two weeks off of my workouts at a time because my right leg was bothering me so much.

When I found the surgeon who ended up helping me, he didn’t even bat an eye.  As soon as I said “right leg pain down my back,” he was like, “Oh, yeah, your ligaments are involved.” And sure enough, when he went in there, the endometriosis was wrapped around my uterosacral ligaments. He had to dig down in there and clean that all out and I haven’t had any leg pain since surgery.

Carol Harnett [0:16:34.62]: You’re generous to share this. I know that when we look at data for why people go out of work and we look at their health data (we call it disability data), but it’s not the disability people think about. When we say disability data, we are almost always talking about illness or injuries that people have that prevent them from working — usually on a temporary basis.

Ablations and hysterectomies are procedures we’re seeing both in endometriosis and in perimenopausal women who are having difficulty with heavy bleeding. It’s interesting, too, because these procedures aren’t always successful in the perimenopausal population.  I did more background reading so I could ask you intelligent questions. I read about excision surgery and was disappointed to find that there’s a limited number of surgeons in the U.S. who have the expertise to do this surgery.

Tawnia Jacobson [0:17.29.92]: About 150, I think, worldwide.

Carol Harnett [0:17:33.91]: Yes, I think there’s about 100 in the U.S. When you think about it, I assume they’re clustered in bigger geographic areas. I think about women who this might be a good solution for — at least a strategy to manage it — those who may have to travel to see somebody who’s able to do this procedure. This is concerning because that may exclude women of certain means to be able to do that.  That always concerns me.

I actually didn’t ask you about this earlier when we started this show, or even when we’ve talked about this a little bit, but I think you referenced in one of your social media posts that there are some insurance limitations for some of the procedures. Did I remember that correctly?

Insurance Coverage and Financial Implications

Tawnia Jacobson [0:18.26.65]: Yeah, I’m going to be very careful with how I speak to this because I am not a professional in the industry. I can only speak to my personal experience, and I actually have a girlfriend who’s really going through a very frustrating situation herself with insurance regarding this.  I can say from my experience, yes, my surgeon was out of state. He was technically out-of-network, which is true for many women who are searching to find an endometriosis expert to treat them because they are very few and far between. Many of them are grouped together, like you said. We’re fortunate in New England to have in New York, Massachusetts and Maine certified surgeons who are experts in excision surgery but, unfortunately, your insurance does restrict you being able to go out of state. Lucky for me, my insurance at the time had an out-of-network option. The hospital, the lab and the anesthesia services were partly covered by my insurance. Now the surgeon himself is paid out of pocket simply because he doesn’t get reimbursed for the procedure.

This is where I’m going to be very careful with how I speak.  How I understand it is that there are basically no CPT codes for the excision surgery itself. They will lump it into the same category as ablation. My surgery was four hours long. My bowel was not involved, but many women do have bowel involvement which can sometimes involve a colorectal surgeon as well. So, if you’re in there 4 to 8 hours (sometimes 10 hours if you’re having diaphragm involvement as well) and you’re only getting reimbursed for an ablation procedure, which can be done in about an hour, you’re losing a lot of money.  That is a lot of time, energy and expense being put out there that you’re not getting reimbursed for. I believe that’s why many of these surgeons require out-of-pocket pay.

Carol Harnett [0:20:39.22]: You have to save!

Tawnia Jacobson [0:20.41.84]: Yeah exactly. My surgeon offered a payment plan. You spoke about people traveling; he gets patients from all over the world.  He had patients flying from India the week that I met him. He’s been doing this for 30 plus years so he is seeing people worldwide. It’s unfortunate because not everybody has the means to be able to do this.  When I was going through the process of finding a surgeon and scheduling surgery, I had befriended somebody through social media who lives in California. She was suffering so much and could not find a surgeon out there who was local and in-network for her insurance. She was fighting the good fight. She was appealing every time I turned around and she was just hoping and praying that she’d be able to find some loophole to be able to allow her to have excision surgery. I can proudly say today that she finally did get surgery! She had excision surgery in December, but I was at the point where I was like,  “Oh my God, I need to start saving money and fly her out here to see my surgeon,” because after I had surgery, I felt so much better. I want every person who is experiencing this pain to be able to find somebody who can help them because they deserve it.

Back to the insurance question -, my girlfriend is experiencing a very similar situation. She has had three ablation surgeries locally, at one of our local hospitals, and it’s not working for her. She needs excision and her insurance has denied her request, twice, to go see my surgeon in She’s still fighting, still trying to figure that out.

A Word About PPO Plans | More Options

Carol Harnett [0:22:19.74]: I’ll just add a quick point. I’ve been in and around insurance for the last ten plus years of my life, in addition to what I do at The Council for Disability Awareness., When you’re going through the open enrollment process, if your employer offers health insurance, (employers of a certain size are all required to offer health insurance) or have to go into the individual market yourself, it’s really important to make sure you’re in a preferred provider (PPO) plan.  At least when you go out of network, it’s pricey (you have a much more significant copay until you reach your out-of-pocket maximum), but at least it gives you options.

This advice applies not just for this situation, but for all situations, particularly if you want to go to what we would call a “center of excellence.” I would consider 100 surgeons in the country to be 100 separate centers of excellence for how to treat this condition — endometriosis — by excision.

This is not a push for you to buy more health insurance than you need.  A PPO health plan costs more money, but when you or one of your loved ones is impacted, you will be ever so thankful that you had options.

Carol Harnett [0:23:25.28]: I am looking at the clock and we have about 6 minutes and there are two questions I want to ask. You referenced a couple of times that when you were in high school you missed school and missed work.  Something that The Council for Disability Awareness focuses on is how illnesses, injuries and diseases can impact people’s ability to work.

The most recent research article I could find was published in 2017. The researchers studied the impact of endometriosis on work and life and said that on average (and the range is enormous), women lose about 5.3 hours per week to endometriosis. Whether that’s being absent or unable to do something, or not being able to do it in the way they normally could.

Can you talk a little bit more about how endometriosis impacted your ability to work for certain, but also your ability to do things in your own life?  I have met you as a very active person, so could you share with people what that is like.

Living and Working with Endometriosis

Tawnia Jacobson [0:24.51.98]: There were days missed from work, days where I had been up all night writhing in pain, or had a wicked headache and just felt terrible the next day and knew that I couldn’t function to my full capacity. That being said, fortunately for me, the worst of my symptoms developed about nine months before I had excision surgery and coincided with me  taking a new position at my job. It was a leadership role. It was administrative. I was putting so much time and energy into my new role, that it was depleting me to the point where between that and my symptoms, I couldn’t function in life outside of work.

I think the new job gave me the drive to get up every single day. Even though I was miserable mentally and physically, I had a purpose. I got up and would work four days a week, but I would then come home and be useless. I would be on the couch with a heat pack taking more ibuprofen than I had ever taken in my life.  Luckily, I had a husband who could pick up the pieces, but it wasn’t good for our relationship, and it was taking a toll on us. I just can’t help but think of women who are supporting themselves as single mothers, or women who are single and alone, and don’t have somebody to help them emotionally or physically.

I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t clean, and I didn’t do my own laundry. I was really kind of  useless outside of work. I had the ability to get there and do that, but that was kind of my purpose in life. I’ve often thought about if I hadn’t taken that new job, where would I be because I think I would have given up. I think I wouldn’t have wanted to get up anymore every single day. It’s funny how timing works out like that.  Prior to that position, I definitely missed a ton of work.

I definitely would call out. I said it used to be a week at a time,  and I would feel crummy, but then it became three weeks out of the month.  It was affecting me so much so that actually my words to my husband were: “I either have to find a surgeon who can help me or who believed my pain and my symptoms, or I have to be admitted to a mental institution, because something’s not right with me. I’m in a very dark place and I’m not myself.”  Those words really sent the message home, and he was like, “We have to do something.”

Fortunately for me, my something was Facebook and educating myself. I said it to you before and I have said it to other people, “It’s embarrassing. I’m a healthcare professional. I’ve studied science my entire life.” I didn’t know what endometriosis meant. I thought it just meant bad periods, painful bleeding, painful sex.  It was an excuse to me. Unfortunately, that’s what many people think and that’s the kind of the stigma you had mentioned. It’s a woman’s disease and women don’t normally talk about their reproductive systems. People don’t usually want to hear about women’s reproductive systems, and that’s unfortunate, because if we can tie this back to the beginning and talk about the prevalence being the same as diabetes. Diabetes isn’t always pretty either, and it affects every organ system in the body — just like endometriosis can affect almost every organ system in the body. Everyone’s symptoms might present a little bit differently, but they can involve major organ systems.

Carol Harnett [0:28:18.58]: I appreciate you sharing all that, particularly your comments about your mental health, because when I looked at this 2018 research study, they looked at lists of symptoms. The more symptoms you have, the more likely you are to be out of work for a period of time.  The number two symptom (pain being number one) was mental health, because people were feeling unaddressed and confused.

I am so grateful you’re talking about mental health because, by coincidence, we are live recording this on May 1st, which is the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, in addition to Disability Insurance Awareness Month, and I’ve committed to talking a lot about mental health.

We have 60 seconds left to our time together, so I’m going to ask for a 30 second headline. Looking back on what you know now, what’s the number one piece of advice you would give to people?

Tawnia’s Best Advice | Educate Yourself

Tawnia Jacobson [0:29.15.14]: Educate yourself. Don’t trust that the doctors know exactly what they’re talking about. I don’t say that negatively, because I work with physicians every single day, but they’re not all experts in what you’re experiencing. Be your own advocate; do your own research, and find the specialist in the area that you need.

For me, it was endometriosis; Nancy’s Nook saved my life. I wish I would have found that resource earlier. If people are struggling, go look at the documentary on endowhat.com. It is life-changing.  

Carol Harnett [0:29:48.41]: Thank you so much, Tawnia, for being our guest. In my opinion, this  is the best show we’ve ever done.

For everyone who has been listening, we hope this show has helped you.

I want to say thank you to all of our listeners. Have a great day, and there’ll be a transcript that accompanies this show so it is easier for  you to get all of the information that we referenced. We will make sure there’s links for all of it.

Thank you again, Tawnia.  

Tawnia Jacobson [0:30.11.97]: Thank you for having me –  such a great topic.