Dealing With Diabetes at Work

Here at, we often discuss how having diabetes affects eating, exercising, and leisure activities. Less often, we discuss how having diabetes complicates navigating a job. But as a new study makes clear, diabetes can have a significant impact on productivity in the workplace.

The study, presented earlier this month at the 2015 meeting of the European Society for the Study of Diabetes in Copenhagen, Denmark, looked at the issue of postmeal high blood glucose among people with diabetes — Type 1 and Type 2 — who take insulin. The study was based on a survey of 906 adults in the United States, Britain, and Germany, which unexpectedly found that among those who worked a job, 68% had trouble stabilizing their blood glucose level after meals, with 64% experiencing high blood glucose.


According to a Medscape article on the study, among the 263 survey respondents who worked and most recently reported high blood glucose, 71% reported having a work productivity problem due to their high blood glucose levels. Overall, they experienced an average of 1.7 episodes of high blood glucose each week, which wasn’t likely to be higher or lower based on diabetes type or type of job worked. Among this group, 54% reported difficulty focusing at work, 45% reported feeling less productive, 44% reported needing to take breaks, 28% reported making more mistakes, and 11% reported canceling or rescheduling meetings or appointments. In addition, 27% said they had missed work due to the effects of high blood glucose.

Work productivity problems were more common among people with Type 2 diabetes, at 77% versus 63% for those with Type 1 diabetes. Germans were also more likely to report these problems, at a rate of 84%, versus 65% for Americans and 62% for Britons. It’s unknown whether these differences reflect actual differences in productivity, or simply different perceptions of how high glucose affects work performance.

As the study authors note, postmeal high blood glucose and reduced productivity could affect many people with diabetes who don’t use insulin, as well — a group this study didn’t cover. It also didn’t examine the reactions of participants to their productivity issues, such as whether they felt other workers perceived them as less effective, or felt that their diabetes harmed their chances of advancement in the workplace.

How has diabetes affected your job — has the need to monitor your blood glucose or administer insulin made certain tasks more difficult? Have you sought certain jobs, or not tried to get others, because of concerns about compatibility with your diabetes management? Have you ever felt that your productivity at work suffered because of your diabetes? If so, how have you dealt with this issue? Leave a comment below!