Issues and Strategies for Success at Work

On this page, you’ll find a number of common issues faced by employees with mental illness, and some strategies to address each issue.

Issue: Completing job applications, arranging interviews, and interviewing are all difficult for you.

Strategy: Work with a job coach, who can not only help you learn how to do these things, but can meet with you onsite once you have the job to help you with your training.  


Issue: Your regular appointment with your therapist is during working hours.

Strategy: Ask your employer for time off to go to your appointment, which would qualify as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Offer to make up the time by working extra hours on other days or evenings.  


Issue: Your medicine makes you drowsy in the mornings, making it difficult for you to get to work on time and to function efficiently once you get there.


  • Ask your employer to adjust your schedule so your work day starts and ends later in the day; this would qualify as an accommodation under the ADA.
  • With the help of your doctor, adjust the type, amount, and timing of your medication to minimize side effects.


Issue: Your doctor changes your medications, and your condition deteriorates significantly, negatively affecting your ability to meet the demands of your job.

Strategy: Tell your doctor you’re unhappy with the change and want to return to your previous medication. If necessary, ask your therapist to advocate for you. 


Issue: The medications you need to control your symptoms diminish your alertness, concentration, and energy level.

Strategy: With the help of your doctor, adjust the type, amount, and timing of your medication to minimize side effects. 


Issue: Your symptoms or medications affect your memory.

Strategy: Keep a calendar — or, better yet, use a calendar program on your computer — to remind you of meetings, deadlines, project timelines, etc. 


Issue: You need to take time off work to be hospitalized, but you’ve used up all your allotted sick leave.

Strategy: Ask your employer to let you take an extended leave without pay. This would qualify as an accommodation under the ADA. 


Issue: You experience debilitating panic and/or anxiety when you have to walk through a parking lot to get to your car.


  • Ask your employer to assign you a parking space closer to the door; this would qualify as an accommodation under the ADA.
  • Leave the building with other employees and have one of them walk to your car with you.


Issue: You work in an open cubicle surrounded by whirring printers and ringing phones in a busy office where people walk past and stop to chat while you’re trying to work. The constant bustle makes it hard for you to concentrate.

Strategy: Ask your employer for a set of accommodations designed to maximize your ability to focus:

  • A high-walled cubicle can minimize visual distractions and discourage people from disturbing you while you work. Headphones playing soft music can filter out background noise without disturbing your co-workers. Replacing your phone’s ringer with a blinking light or other visual cue can also increase your sense of calm.
  • Receiving instructions in writing or via e-mail gives you something to refer to when you’ve been distracted.


Issue: You have to be hospitalized repeatedly, which affects your ability to complete projects with specific timelines.

Strategy: Consider working on a contract basis, which can be more short-term and time-limited, and which allows your employer to reassign your work to other contract workers if you have to return to the hospital. 


Issue: You lack access to a computer and computer skills, which makes finding and keeping a job more difficult.

Strategy: Community-based education, such as adult Ed programs, can provide computer education at reduced cost. 


Issue: Lack of transportation makes it hard for you to get to work on time.


  • If public transportation isn’t available, explore ride-sharing with other employees (by forming a carpool or joining an existing one).
  • Check with local psychosocial clubhouses to see if they have transportation resources.

Note: The information contained in these pages is for educational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Individuals should contact the appropriate legal resources for specific legal advice regarding their particular situations.