If incontinence is affecting you at work, you're not alone. A recent study of working-age women found that nearly 40% had some urine leakage at the workplace. Among people with the worst symptoms, 88% said it had a negative impact on their confidence or their ability to do their job. The study was done in women, but men are affected by incontinence, too.
Incontinence can affect your work in many ways. You may have trouble sitting through long meetings. Your bathroom breaks may take time away from your work tasks, making it harder to complete your work on time. You may be worried that your coworkers will find out about your incontinence. If your job involves heavy lifting, this could increase the risk of an accident. And frequent bathroom breaks could make your boss wonder why you're spending so much time in there. This can all add up to take a major toll on your self-confidence and concentration at work, which can ultimately affect your productivity and job performance.
But there are many things you can do to cope. The first step is to get help. Speak to your doctor about your incontinence and the treatment options available to you. It's important to know that incontinence can be managed. The treatments for incontinence include absorbent products, medications, exercises (such as Kegel exercises), medical devices (such as pessaries), lifestyle changes, and surgery.
Once you have a diagnosis and treatment plan from your doctor, you may wish to consider telling your human resources (HR) department and/or your supervisor about your incontinence. This is a personal decision. Although you may feel embarrassed, your supervisor or HR professional is likely to be understanding and sympathetic. Disclosing your condition could help prevent misunderstandings and make it easier for you to work with your supervisor to minimize the impact of incontinence on your work.
Other tips to help make incontinence easier to manage at work include:
- Follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor (which may include absorbent products, medications, exercises, medical devices, lifestyle changes, and surgery). To learn more about treatment options, see the Incontinence Channel. If you use absorbent products or medications, be sure you bring enough to work so that you don't run out.
- If you are concerned about visible leaks, wear dark colours. Bring a change of clothes to have at work in case of accidents.
- Don't drink too much fluid. 6 to 8 glasses a day is usually enough to keep you hydrated. You may need more fluids if you work outside in hot weather or if your job keeps you physically active.
- Reduce your caffeine intake (e.g., drink less coffee at meetings and at work). Caffeine can make your bladder control worse.
Incontinence doesn't have to make you miserable on the job! Getting help from your doctor and following the tips above can make it easier for you to manage incontinence at work.