IC is not something that can be left behind, so dealing with it in the workplace is a given for employed ICers. Some bosses and co-workers are compassionate, and some aren’t. No special formula exists to deal with IC at work, but there are some things to keep in mind along the way.

1. Decide who needs to know about your IC.

One of the biggest issues is deciding whether to tell co-workers about your IC. Deciding whether and who to tell starts with considering if your IC is interfering with your ability to do your job. If you may have a comfortable chair and easy bathroom access, then you probably don’t need to share about IC with many people. If you are on your feet for hours and struggle to get bathroom breaks, then you need to share about your condition in order to get accommodations you need to do your job.

Most often, start with your boss or supervisor when sharing information about IC. Before your meeting, think about what you really want to say, how much health information you want to disclose (you don’t need to give lots of details) and what accommodations could help you better do your job. You can suggest ideas such as working fewer hours, working from home at least part of the time, having a stool to sit rather than standing, having co-workers fill in for a few minutes for extra bathroom breaks, etc. The more specific and realistic accommodations you share, the better the conversation will usually go.

When it comes to talking with your co-workers about IC, consider whether your accommodations for IC are going to interfere with their work at all. For example, if you going to ask a co-worker to cover your job for 5 minutes every so often for a bathroom break, you might want to explain that you have a bladder condition which causes you to need frequent restroom breaks. Keep in mind that if a person is compassionate and understanding in general they most likely will be if you share about your IC. If someone is more difficult at work, then he or she might not respond so well.

2. Consider talking to human resources.

If your company is big enough that you have a human resources department, consider talking with them about your rights and what accommodations can be made for absences for flares or doctor’s appointments. Again, you don’t have to share any more details about IC than you are comfortable with sharing. But you want to at least have had a conversation so that if issues come up later on, you know your rights and you know the company is aware of your situation. It can help you maintain a good relationship with your employer.

3. Understand your rights.

Along with talking to human resources, you should make sure you understand the rights you have. In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act can be apply in some situations. Your human resources representative should be able to help you with understanding what that entails. In general, employers with at least 50 employees are covered by FMLA. In order to qualify, you must have been with your employer for 12 months and worked a minimum of 1, 250 hours. If you work for an employer with fewer than 50 employees, the company may still have state medical and family leave laws they have to follow.(1) Find more information in The Employee’s Guide to FMLA.

If your employer isn’t being cooperative, consider the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can actually reach out to the ADA for resources that might be helpful. Instead of approaching your employer with the threat of ADA action against them, use the ADA as a tool to give suggestions and even state the rights you have. They may not have been previously aware of those rights.(2)

4. Use the right words when talking with others.

When you’ve decided who you are going to talk with about your IC, consider how you’ll present that information. For most people, talking about anything related to going to the bathroom can be embarrassing or awkward. Stick to the facts. You might say, “I have a bladder condition that means I need to use the restroom more often and have pelvic pain. Sitting down helps.” Short and simple is usually best. (We have even more tips for talking about IC with others.) Once you have given a general description, then focus on what living with IC means for you and what you need to manage it well.

Some patients have had employers and/or co-workers want to know more about IC in order to understand their struggle. The IC Network has great resources available to explain IC whether you want to print the information or send them a link. Other patients have had employers who don’t take IC seriously, which is definitely a challenge.

5. Find support at work.

While work isn’t the place to share your emotional struggles, you most likely spend a lot of time there. Look for a co-worker you connect with and can trust. Share with them about your IC so they can help you advocate for yourself in the workplace or even with other co-workers. Having someone at work who is on your side will also help you feel less isolated. But, remember you need to be a good friend to them as well.

Additionally, treat IC as just one aspect of your life (because it is!), and your friends are more likely to do the same thing.

6. Utilize your support outside of work.

Your support system outside of work can also help you be successful at work. For example, if you are having a flare day, having a spouse or friend who will make dinner for your family so you can come straight home from work to your couch and heating pad can help you feel well enough to go to work the next day. Or relying on a loved one to pick up and carry in your grocery order can help keep you from causing a flare, thus making it more likely you can work better the next day. The more you can take care of yourself outside of work, the better you will fare at work.

7. Listen to your body.

Both inside and outside of work, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Sometimes just asking for a 15-minute extra break to sit and rest somewhere can mean the difference between bladder discomfort and a raging flare. Or if you are having a rough day, opt to go sit in your car with its heated seats during your lunch break rather than sitting on the hard chairs in the break room. And if there is a day you just need to stay home and rest to feel better, do your best to make that happen.

Outside of work, pay attention to what you do as well to help prevent flares. Maintain a healthy diet, avoid any dietary triggers you have and get adequate sleep. All of those things will help you be better able to function at work. You may have days you come home from work and just need to rest instead of doing chores. That’s OK. Pay attention to what your body needs.

8. Watch out for workplace bullies.

Unfortunately not everyone is understanding when it comes to your IC and any need for accommodations. Some people are going to find fault, especially since IC is an invisible condition. They may give you a difficult time and feel jealous for the special treatment you receive. As a result, they can also be more likely to complain about you to others, including your boss.(3) Trust your gut instinct on who you need to watch out for. Be careful to not share more information with them about your health than absolutely necessary.

If they are going out of their way to make your life difficult or give you a hard time, document everything. Then you can present it in a calm manner to your supervisor or human resources representative.

9. Be proactive with your employer.

After you have the initial conversations with your employer to go over your IC and any needed accommodations, stay proactive with your employer to maintain a good relationship. Talk with your boss and/or human resources representative about how to best manage time off for doctor’s appointments. Develop a plan with your employer for if you unexpectedly need time off for a procedure or to manage a bad flare. Explain that IC can be up and down with good days and bad days. Discuss how to best handle calling in on days you wake up feeling too bad to go into work.(2) Go back and revisit these conversations and plans as needed when changes occur in the workplace or with your health.

10. Find the right doctor.

Having a good relationship with your urologist is important for multiple reasons. One of those is his or her ability to help you in regards to work. For example, your urologist can help you figure out your best tools for pain management during the workday that don’t negatively impact your thinking or energy level. He or she can also make recommendations for what accommodations would most help you. And the right doctor will also be willing to assist with paperwork your employer requires in order to make accommodations for you.



  1. Buttaccio JL. 8 Tips for Managing a Job and Chronic Illness. Healthline. Aug. 12, 2019.
  2. Caramela S. 5 Ways to Manage your Chronic Illness at Work. Business News Daily. Sept. 14, 2018.
  3. Glassdoor Team, Career Advice Experts. How to Manage Work When You have a Chronic Illness. Glassdoor. July 3, 2017.