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Tips for Dealing with Returning to the Workplace

A return to the workplace is imminent. Prime Minister Mario Draghi recently reinstated the more lenient yellow and white zones in various regions, with an eye out for full reopening. This means part of Italy’s workforce will be back in the office by May, with the rest going back later. This might not be the best news for people living with PKU like you, as it will mean another readjustment and a possible reintroduction to the various challenges in the workplace (such as the lack of PKU food).

While that's reason to be concerned, don't worry too much as the tips below will help you deal with your impending return to the workplace.

Article by Zarah Ward for Mevalia

Pack Your Meals

The easiest way to reacclimatize is to pack your food — starting with your morning snack all the way to your afternoon meal. In this way, you have full control of everything you eat, allowing you to avoid foods that can trigger symptoms, like eggs and milk. This is your best bet at maintaining a low-protein diet away from home. Fortunately, there are lots of PKU-friendly foods available at supermarkets, ranging from coconut milk to Violife cheese. There are also meat-free products from Hooba, like Cumberland sausages. Add protein substitutes such as Mevalia's GMPower products and you'll be able to keep your phenylalanine levels in check.


Reach Out to Your Manager and to HR

While you’ve likely informed your manager and HR about your condition, it's advisable that you talk about it with them again. In doing so, you can go over pre-pandemic arrangements — company-sponsored counseling, for instance — that might have been in place to support you and make sure that they are still in effect. Reaching out is also crucial because company policies might have changed over time while adapting to a post-pandemic world. It's also possible that there's been considerable personnel turnover, and that you'll be working under a different manager and dealing with a rejigged HR. By reaching out early, you'll know exactly what type of support you'll be getting, and then adjust accordingly

Adapt your workplace to your needs and comfort

Quality of life is among the chief concerns of people living with PKU. Specifically, many rue the “overwhelming” impact of PKU on their lives, which is also compromising their ability to realize their full potential at work. Reduced quality of life is also causing inattention, anxiety, irritability, and depression. This is why you need to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible in the workplace to eliminate unnecessary stressors, like a disorganized workstation, discomfort, and musculoskeletal issues such as tendinitis. Start by cleaning and disinfecting your workstation so you won’t have to worry about dirt and residual bacteria making you ill. Arrange your workspace to your liking, too, so you can work comfortably. Then, negotiate for some ergonomic furniture, as they can help make your workstation more suitable to your physical needs. Specifically, request for an ergonomic chair that offers adjustable lumbar support, a high-quality backrest, and a tilt limiter feature. You can also invest in your own ergonomic furniture, like an armrest mouse pad and ergonomic keyboard to keep your shoulders and hands comfortable. All this will help ensure your comfort, and minimize any possible decline in the quality of life.

Lean on your colleagues

Finally, look to get support from your workmates. A study of Italians with PKU reveals that lack of family support is associated with poor metabolic control. This doesn't mean you don't have a supportive family, but it highlights the importance of having as much support as possible. So, reconnect with your colleagues right away. Socialize with them and cultivate relationships that probably went stale during the lockdowns. Remind them of your condition and ask for their help to get you through every work day. And while you nurture old bonds, look to create new ones as well. With friends fully behind you, the kind of support you need will be around even when you're away from your family. It's normal to dread this return to the workplace, so do acknowledge it. Then, do the above tips and you'll be resettled into office life soon enough.

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