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When Heart Disease Forces You to Change Jobs: 5 Tips to Ease the Transition

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Several months after I had a heart attack, my cardiologist advised me to change jobs. He knew that I was working long hours every day and more than 40 hours per week. I was under pressure, stressed out, and on-call 24/7.

Being under any kind of stress was not good for my heart health. My doctor advised me to seek another job.

I loved my job as an event manager. I also knew he was right.

I made the tough decision to leave my beloved job and take a demotion within my company. I switched divisions and took an hourly job where I only worked 40 hours a week and was no longer tied to a mobile device.

Luckily, everyone at my job was very understanding of my transition, but the switch may not always be easy.

Here are my tips if you need to change jobs due to heart disease.

Listen to your doctor

Your doctor knows what’s right for your health and has your best interests in mind. They know what’s best for your heart. You may not always agree.

Be honest with your doctor about what you’re experiencing in your personal life and at work so they can understand how best to help you.

I was honest with my doctor about my job after I had my heart attack. He didn’t think it was wise for me to go back due to the stress and the long hours. I made my decision after much discussion with him.

I was glad I did. Making the switch was like night and day! I was no longer married to my job.

My health became my number one priority. I didn’t have to prioritize my clients over myself.

The stress melted away. It was so nice to be able to enjoy a more consistent work-life balance.

Talk to HR

I was super nervous about letting everyone know that I had to leave my job. Fortunately, my company understood.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers heart disease a disability that substantially limits a person’s ability to do one or more major life activities. That means your company is required to provide reasonable accommodations for your needs. And they can’t fire you because of your condition.

You’ll most likely need to communicate about your condition and needs with your HR manager. I let them know that my doctor recommended that I switch jobs because the hours and the stress level of my role at the time wasn’t good for my heart.

I was disappointed that my doctor wanted me to take a demotion. I also understood that I needed to do it for my health. I just wanted to get healthy again. I love the fact that my new role is stress-free!

Be honest with your new manager

Taking care of your health is important. You may not feel well some days or have a string of doctor appointments. That’s normal.

Be upfront with your employers about your limitations. Share why you made the job change. Let your new manager know that you may need to schedule appointments during the workday and that there may be times you’re not feeling well.

This discussion is not required or necessary. Talk whenever you feel the time is right. But getting on the same page before you have to miss a day of work helps your manager to understand where you’re coming from. They’re less likely to assume you’re trying to skip out of work.

Keep in mind that the ADA prohibits employers from firing or denying a promotion to an employee due to a disability. Employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations for employees so that they can do their job, which includes modifying work schedules.

To learn more about how the ADA applies to you, contact your local ADA center.

I talked with my new manager shortly after starting my new job. He really appreciated the fact that I shared this personal information with him even though I wasn’t obligated to do so. It helped him to understand me better. It made it easier for him to approve my absences for doctor appointments more quickly since he understood why I needed to go.

Don’t be afraid to ask for time off for appointments

Don’t be afraid to ask for time off for doctor appointments. Disregarding your health by skipping medical visits puts you at risk of health complications that could keep you out of the workplace for much longer.

Now your manager understands what’s happening. You’ll hopefully be surprised by how understanding they are when you ask to make an appointment.

Try to schedule doctor visits so that they don’t interfere with standing meetings or deadlines. Offer to make up the missed time by working late or through your lunch break. Or exchange your paid time off for the missed time.

Make work-life balance a priority

You made this job change for health reasons. Remember that!

Don’t take a lower-stress job and immediately ask to pick up extra hours, work through your lunch every day, or stay late every evening. Doing so will only hurt you in the long run.

I had to remind myself to take a lunch break and leave the office on time when I started my new hourly position. I wasn’t used to working 40 hours a week!

It was a struggle at first. I got the hang of it and quickly began to enjoy it!

You may eventually want to pick up more hours. I started working longer hours about a year after starting my new role. Make sure you’re ready for it. Check to make sure your doctor is OK with the idea as well. Then ease yourself into it.

Hopefully, these tips will help make the transition easier for you if you’re changing jobs due to heart disease. I’m certainly happy I made the switch. I couldn’t be happier.

For more information on how to manage heart disease, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.

SOURCES

NPS-US-NP-00639 MAY 2020