Published on November 18, 2021

10 ways to manage diabetes at work

By Maighan Seagrove-Guffey, D.O., Endocrinologist

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s crucial to properly manage your condition to prevent or delay diabetes-related complications like stroke, heart attack, blindness, kidney disease and amputation. However, it can be tricky to maintain healthy habits when you’re busy at work. Here are 11 ways to manage your diabetes while you’re on the job.

1. Create a diabetes management plan

Talk to your endocrinologist, primary care provider, registered dietitian or diabetes educator about your job and work environment. Together, you can design a plan to manage diabetes at work. Your health care provider will consider factors like how many hours you work, your environment, how many breaks you’re allowed to take and where you can store your supplies.

2. Talk to your boss about your condition

Let your boss know that you have diabetes and will need to take steps to manage it while you’re at work. You can ask for frequent breaks, a place to store and take your medications, and a place to rest as needed.

It’s important to know that you can’t be penalized by your employer for having diabetes. Your company is required by law to meet any reasonable requests that will help you perform your job.

If you’re not sure what to say or ask for, talk to your health care provider for guidance.

3. Enlist support from a trusted colleague

While it’s OK to keep your health information private, it can be helpful to share with at least one trusted coworker that you have diabetes and where you store your supplies. That way, if you ever have low blood sugar, they can help you.

4. Store your supplies in one place

Pack a bag or briefcase with your diabetes management essentials and bring it with you every time you go to work. Be sure to store your supplies at the proper temperature, 46-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider including:

  • Healthy snacks and lunch
  • Your medications
  • A blood sugar meter
  • A water bottle

5. Check your blood sugar as recommended

Ask your health care provider how often you should test your blood sugar. If you need to check your blood sugar multiple times a day, it may be helpful to get a continuous glucose monitor. This device tests your blood sugar throughout the day and beeps if your levels are too high or too low.

6. Plan healthy snacks

Fast food, vending machine snacks, pizza and sweet treats can be tempting when you’re at work. Maintain balanced blood sugar levels with healthy snacks that contain protein, healthy fats and fiber. Some ideas include:

  • A single portion of cottage cheese or low-sugar yogurt with berries
  • Sliced deli turkey and cream cheese wrapped around sliced bell peppers
  • Half an avocado sprinkled with sunflower seeds
  • Hardboiled eggs with everything bagel seasoning and sliced veggies
  • String cheese and a handful of almonds
  • Veggies and hummus
  • Turkey jerky and a handful of nuts or seeds
  • Peanut butter on whole-grain crackers
  • A fruit and nut bar

If you choose to have a high-carbohydrate or sugary snack at work, do so in moderation and keep an eye on your blood sugar.

7. Stay well-hydrated

Sip from a bottle of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. If you want caffeine, go for a carb-free drink like unsweetened tea or coffee.

8. Squeeze physical activity into your day

If you work long shifts or at night, it can be hard to maintain a consistent exercise routine. Instead, aim to add more physical activity to your day. Here are some ideas:

  • Park further away at the grocery store and office.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Go for a walk at lunch or right after work.
  • Do some stretches each time you take a bathroom break.
  • Go for a “walking meeting” instead of sitting in a conference room.

9. Prioritize good sleep

A lack of sleep can affect diabetes management. Here are some tips for better sleep:

  • Try to get seven to nine hours per night.
  • Do your best to wake up and go to sleep around the same time each day.
  • Avoid eating a large meal within three hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
  • Turn off electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
  • Check your blood sugar before you go to sleep.

If you frequently have trouble sleeping, talk to your health care provider.

10. Keep stress in check

Stress can elevate your blood sugar and affect how well you manage your condition. For example, when you’re stressed out, you may not eat as healthily or sleep as well as you usually would. Try one or more of the following stress management techniques:

  • Spend time outdoors
  • Exercise regularly
  • Journal
  • Pray
  • Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises
  • Talk to a counselor, trusted friend or faith leader
  • Read
  • Garden or do yardwork
  • Listen to a podcast you enjoy
  • Watch a favorite movie or show

The American Diabetes Association website also has a great patient resources guide with recipes, stress management and exercise plans. If you have questions about managing diabetes, talk to your primary care provider. Find a provider near you.

Dr. Seagrove-Guffey is an endocrinologist at Pardee Diabetes and Endocrine Associates.

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