Has anyone got any tips for working in an open plan office with cfs?

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I was diagnosed last June with CFS and have been struggling to maintain full time work hours in a busy, very bright and noisy open plan office which leaves me completely drained at the end of each day.  Has anyone found anything that helps reduce the exposure to light and noise in this environment?  There are individual offices but HR wont allow me to have one on medical grounds.

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  • Posted

    I work in an open plan office too. I'm not sure how yours is laid out but I've set my computer up so that it blocks out the window in front of me.

    Unfortunately I don't think there is a lot you can do about the noise. I usually just put my headphones in and play some music that I can tune out to. It doesn't stop the noise or make it any quieter but I find it a lot easier to forget about the noise if it's just my music playing.

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    • Posted

      Thank you for responding.  I have a window behind me but I have the blinds pulled all the time so the reflection on my screen isnt a problem.  It is the really high level of lighting which is apparently office regulation which causes me a problem.  Before I had M.E. I used to do the same by putting in headphones but I have found since having the condition that I cant tolerate the noise so directly to my ears.
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  • Posted

    hi cheryl. you have my sympathies in trying to work in such an 'sensory assaultive' environment. i'm surprised re HR's response. perhaps they are not up to speed with the latest regulations in respect of equality and disability rights where ppl with CFS/ME are concerned. ppl with this condition are protected by both of these statutory regulations. this can include making the work environment optimally amenable to the needs of ppl with ME/CFS . that may even require deployment to another more amenbale area of work within the instituition. or the addition of suitable seating i.e. a recliner to rest when necessary including amendemnent of equipment such as computers etc. do a have a look into these rights. NICE give guidelines as will the disability support organisations. i think HR are not fully informed in this respect from what thye have told you.

    best wishes

    Caitlin.

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    • Posted

      Thank you for responding.  I am lucky that my manager is very supportive but HR ultimately take control and they have done little to help me.  They have insisted that I provide a letter from my GP to prove that I have M.E. and I have given them the Action for ME guidelines for Employers all with little effect.  They have recently insisted on a fit to work note to allow me to take a couple of 10 min rest break a day but there is nowhere dark and quiet for me to go to take them - they offered me a cupboard in the corridor as a solution!  Not sure which path to take now.  I am under South Coast Fatigue for treatment but they have said maybe I just need to accept and make the best of the changes work have offered.  I have contacted an Occupational Therapist but this is private so could be expensive and just get HRs backs up.  I have struggled with the working conditions for about 8 months now and find that I have no home life with my children because I am so drained by the time I leave work and pick them up from school.  I will take a look at the NICE guidelines - thanks for the advice.
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  • Posted

    I'm not sure where you live, but in the US, you can throw a massive legal fit for your company not complying with your disability.  Toss the word 'disability' around a bit and someone should take notice.  However, having gone through this problem before, I can think of a few things you can do.  One, get a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.  They are great!  Sun glasses help as well.  My boss, a very nice guy, put some kind of sleeves over the florescent lights that reduced the glare and flickering of the lights.  It didn't seem to bother any of the other employees either.

    Me, as a pain in th butt, would make your employer comply with the disability regulations in your country.  Otherwise, sue them within a inch of their life.  I know that is mean, but our lives are hard enough without others contributing to our pain.

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    • Posted

      Unfortunately I am in the UK.  Although there are Equality Acts they talk a lot about a company being able to make "reasonable" adjustments and it is very difficult to prove.  My manager went to HR today to ask what they are doing as was advised that I could wear sunglasses and a baseball cap to block out the lights!!  Would look great with a suit in a formal office Im sure - not sure whether to laugh at their stupidity or cry for not being taken seriously.  They have disbelieved my condition from day I was diagnosed and insisted on me providing letters of proof from my GP like they thought I was lying to get special treatment. I am considering getting tinted lenses but when I asked at the opticians they advised it may be a waste of money as the light will come from above and fall behind the lenses.  Thanks for your support though.
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    • Posted

      Ha!  I know.  Put a picnic umbrella over your desk.  Shade!  Okay, yes, I realize that is truly stupid.  I wish I could come up with something better.  I hope you can convince your work to help you.  I am sorry that it has to be so difficult.
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  • Posted

    Hi Cheryl

    Take a look at the Definition of Disability under the Equality Act 2010, where specific references are made to CFS and ME...it is a disability! It is against the Law for any employer to discriminate against any employee who has a disability or serious health condition!

    HR will be completely aware of this but they hope you won't be for obvious reasons!

    I no longer work but had to resort to prescription sunglasses(I have to wear them permanently), ear plugs or noise isolation headphones which are different from noise cancelling ones!

    I also have a total blackout mask which I have to use in a darkened room!

    The company must provide you with the necessary adjustments to meet your needs to assist you to carry on working instead of making it more difficult so that you will quit your job, which is what happened to me 12years ago!

    They could even go as far as allowing to work from home, providing a reclining chair with head support and footstool!

    Having your own office is not an unreasonable request and I think you can talk to your local job centre to speak to someone about your situation and find someone to advocate for you

    I have severe ME/CFS so I am pretty much housebound but hope some of this info helpssmile

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