Incontinence affects a huge number of people at work, be it an office job or volunteer position. It can undermine your self-confidence and distract you from important tasks at hand, especially if you’re constantly running to the bathroom to try to avoid a leak or spending a lot of time worrying about keeping your medical condition a secret, both of which can actually leave your boss and co-workers wondering what’s wrong—the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
This brings up a key decision you’ll want to make: Should you tell your boss or supervisor? You’ll want to balance what you might think of as an embarrassing conversation with the potential understanding that you may get and the relief of having an ally who understands why you might need to be in the bathroom often and who may be able to make some accommodations in your work schedule.
Whether you tell anyone, there are steps to take to minimize the impact incontinence may have on your work life:
Experiment with different incontinence pads or briefs until you find the brands and styles that work for your degree of incontinence. Look for those that offer odor neutralizing agents—one less thing for you to worry about. Wearing the right product should contain any leak and spare your clothes, and this might be the only item that needs changing. Have enough extra pads or briefs with you, depending on the type and severity of your incontinence.
Watch your fluid intake. Don’t eliminate liquids, especially not water since you need 6 to 8 glasses a day to stay hydrated, but do cut back on caffeinated beverages if you notice they act as triggers. You don’t have to pass up coffee breaks, just pass up the tea, coffee and even hot chocolate. Talk to your doctor about spacing out liquids—many people find small amounts spread throughout the day are better than drinking large quantities at once.
Decide on a clothing emergency plan. You might feel more comfortable in dark clothes, and you might keep an extra pair of pants and underwear in a desk drawer or locker at work. Have needed personal hygiene products at the ready, including flushable wipes and skin cleanser.
Follow all the treatment steps outlined by your physician, even at work. If you’re doing Kegel exercises to strengthen bladder muscles, follow through on the job—they’re the one exercise no one can see you doing.
Of course, ask your physician about any other measures that might be appropriate for you. Knowing what actions to take will return some of the self-assurance incontinence may have eroded.