6 Ways Your Physical Health Can Influence Your Career Prospects
A healthy professional life is incredibly important. There are countless factors that can play into whether you find yourself thriving or struggling to stay afloat in your career. An immensely important one of these factors is your physical health. Not only can health issues and chronic illness negatively impact your ability to work, but also negatively influence your career in many other ways as well.
In order to have the healthiest career possible, it is important to understand how your physical health can influence your career prospects so that you may avoid these challenges if possible and overcome any that you do find yourself having to face at some point along your career trajectory.
1. Ability To Concentrate
Living with a chronic health condition is not something you can generally just decide to ignore. In fact, it is something that takes up a very large amount of your attention that you would probably prefer to give elsewhere, especially in your career. Chronic conditions do not respect work hours versus personal hours throughout the day, workweek, or across your life as a whole.
This means that inevitably you are going to end up having to devote at least some amount of your attention to your chronic illness during hours where ideally you would be fully focused on work. For instance, if you have diabetes and are dealing with high or low blood sugar, that not only directly impacts your ability to work effectively, but can also divert your undivided attention away from work as you have to pay attention if your blood sugar has stabilized afterward and take time to address any ongoing issues.
It is also possible that your chronic condition itself may negatively impact your ability to concentrate at work. This is especially true of conditions such as Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other neurological disorders like auditory processing disorder (APD) can directly impact your ability to focus at work.
Some people with ADHD have difficulty concentrating on a singular task when there is additional background noise or other stimuli but can be immensely successful in doing so given the correct environment and ability to do what is necessary to reduce the impact of these distractions. However, you may not be able to address those concerns in the ways most effective for you in your workplace like you can in other parts of your life.
2. Ability To Navigate Your Surroundings
In almost any career path you find yourself on, an often overlooked key for your success is how well you function within the physical space your job takes place in. Nobody wants to feel physically uncomfortable in their workplace like they are David Robinson in the Navy.
If your health is negatively impacting your ability to comfortably navigate your surroundings then, at the very least, you will be forced to devote a portion of your attention to overcoming that hardship.
This is not only true of a lack of physical mobility within your workspace, but also of perceptive and/or cognitive difficulties in navigating your workspace. For instance, a visual impairment such as cataracts or other health conditions that impact eye health might limit your ability to perceive important visual information in your workplace that causes you to either miss things that need to get done or be slower in accomplishing tasks requiring that visual information than your coworkers due to requiring closer examination of that information to see it to the same level of detail or fidelity as others.
3. Others’ Perception of Your Abilities
Navigating any workplace is difficult enough at times all on its own. This is only exacerbated by the added complication of how other people, such as coworkers, management, customers, and clients, perceive your abilities. Unfortunately, we cannot control how other people think, nor their preconceived ideas, biases, and prejudices established completely outside of your interactions with them at work.
Regrettably, chronic conditions often carry with them stereotypes or cultural assumptions that are reductive, misinformed, and sometimes actually harmful. It may be something that seems small, like a coworker assuming someone with diabetes cannot have a piece of cake at an office birthday party, but even something less consequential can alienate that employee from coworkers.
4. Your Perception of Your Abilities
At times throughout life, the biggest opponent to our success is, in fact, ourselves. This is especially true when health-related obstacles get in the way of succeeding at something as quickly or thoroughly as we might hope for. These kinds of setbacks can feel utterly devastating at times and can keep us from thriving professionally to the degree we are able.
Self-doubt is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imposter syndrome is the psychological pattern of doubting your skills, abilities, talent, or accomplishments. Researchers have estimated 70% of the population faces imposter syndrome at some point in their life, and these feelings are worsened when obstacles get in the way of performing to your highest level. If your health has done this to you in your career then it is natural to feel inadequate at work.
Symptoms of imposter syndrome in the workplace can include:
- Keeping ideas to yourself in meetings or other collaborative aspects of work.
- Self-isolating from co-workers in social situations.
- Procrastination of important tasks, especially due to anxiety over doing them incorrectly or inadequately.
- Self-sabotage through either failure to complete tasks or micro-management from being overly perfectionistic
5. Lost Working Hours
Poor health can even lead to direct loss of working hours and therefore, keep money out of your wallet.
Unfortunately, missing work hours regularly is likely to be a setback to your career and an obstacle to advancement. Even if you display incredible work ethic and productivity when you are on the job, missing hours is likely to be seen to some degree, at least, as poor work ethic.
Worse than missing out on advancement in your current job, lost working hours can also cause you to be perceived as a liability to your employer, causing corrective action, demotion, or even, at worst, termination of employment. This reputation, unfair as it may be considering your health circumstances, can also be a major detriment to your ability to gain future employment due to a lack of positive recommendations from employers holding a negative opinion of your work ethic.
6. Likelihood of Workplace Injury
Poor health and/or chronic conditions not only affect your health on their own, but also can cause or worsen future health issues, including workplace injuries. This especially has the potential for your employer to view you as a liability to them in the form of a potential worker’s compensation claim they want to avoid.
Here are ways that poor health can increase your likelihood of a workplace injury:
- Prior/chronic injuries: Dealing with a chronic injury can increase your likelihood of an acute injury. This can be from a reoccurring injury to the same, not fully healed area already dealing with the chronic injury, repeated stress injury to a different part of the body that is now overworked to compensate for the chronic injury, or acute injury to a new part of the body caused in some way by the physical limitations of the previous injury.
- Poor vision: If you have not taken proper care of your eyesight and have vision problems, you are more likely to be injured due to not seeing a dangerous situation happening. Fortunately, vision problems can often be addressed through treatments such as diet and exercise or LASIK eye surgery.
- Risk of complications related to a workplace injury: Not only can poor health increase your likelihood of a workplace injury, but it can also increase your risk of complications from that injury. These can occur in the forms of additional health concerns at the time of the initial event (such as additional related injuries, increased severity of your injuries, or heart attack), or longer-term effects (such as increased injury duration, chronic pain, recurrence of injury, or increased risk of related injuries and health concerns down the road).