Explaining psoriasis at work

Advice on talking to your boss and colleagues

Psoriasis affects the working life of many people. Apart from stress arising from the job itself, you may have to deal with co-workers’ curiosity about any visible plaques.

Psoriasis could also result in you being absent from work due to serious flare-ups or emotional distress. So it’s a good idea to consider how you’ll deal with any potential problems and educate colleagues about your condition.

Should I tell my colleagues and managers about my psoriasis?

This is a personal decision. It might depend on how severe your psoriasis is and the impact it is having on your colleagues and your job. While it may not be easy, if you tell your colleagues about your psoriasis, you’ll likely find that they’ll be supportive.

Most people with the condition report positive reactions from their colleagues, which they can find surprising. And by ‘educating’ your colleagues, you are helping to address any misunderstandings they might have had– which will benefit others they meet who also have psoriasis.

Who should I tell first?

A good first step is to raise the subject with your immediate boss, or human resources department manager if you have one. Then you might want to explain the condition to the colleagues who are most affected by your plaques, absences and so on.

Once you’ve taken the decision to tell them, think carefully about what you want (and don’t want) to say. As a general rule, it’s best to use simple language. Emphasise that you are managing the condition, that it is not contagious, and that it does not affect your commitment to your work.

While it may not be easy, if you tell your colleagues about your psoriasis, you’ll likely find that they’ll be supportive.

How should I talk to my boss about psoriasis?

When it comes to your boss, it’s best to ask for a private meeting at a time when neither of you are under pressure. Make a note of what you want to say – there’s no need to go into too much detail if you don’t want to. It might help to write down what you plan to say.

Your boss will want to know if your condition is having any effect on your ability to work. So describe the ways your psoriasis may affect your working life and what support you’d appreciate – for example, if you need to take time off at regular intervals for a doctor’s appointment.

How should I discuss it with colleagues?

If you want your colleagues to know about your psoriasis or feel that it would be helpful to tell someone, then choose a good time to talk them through the causes, symptoms and treatment of psoriasis. Try to keep your explanation simple and direct. This may help to deepen their understanding about the condition and also make you feel more at ease.

What are the benefits of being open about psoriasis at work?

Work can be stressful enough without having to hide your psoriasis from people. If you tell your colleagues, you’ll probably feel more comfortable about showing your affected skin in the workplace. This means you’ll be able to wear clothes appropriate to the weather – such as short-sleeved tops in summer, for example – rather than feeling hot and bothered in clothes that cover your psoriasis up.

Plus, once they know about your psoriasis, you’ll be in a much better position to ask for their help at work – maybe you need an urgent job done while you take time off for a doctor’s appointment, or you want someone to cover for you in a meeting because your skin is itching a lot and you’re finding it difficult to concentrate.

What if I don’t want to talk about my psoriasis openly at work?

It is your right to keep your condition private. However, some people feel less anxious and more relaxed after they have been open about their psoriasis.

You might also want to consider whether keeping your psoriasis a secret could increase your anxiety and stress level. And it’s also worth weighing the benefits that might come, both at work and in general, from having supportive colleagues around you.