To tell or not to tell? Working with a chronic health condition.

An interactive web-based self-reflection aid for employees with disabilities and/or chronic conditions


In the context of demographic change and the demand of equal vocational participation by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the relevance of the topic working with chronic conditions or disabilities is growing – nevertheless, it is still no matter of course in most companies. During the course of their working life many affected employees are confronted with the difficult question of whether and how to disclose aspects of their chronic condition or disability. Reasons for considering a disclosure could be a deterioration of the health situation, absenteeism or change of task. Dealing with a chronic condition openly in the working context, can generally have many advantages: affected persons often hope for support by their colleagues and supervisors, for an adjustment of their work place and working conditions or simply for not having to hide their chronic condition or disability. At the same time people concerned are in fear of possible negative consequences like discrimination or being treated differently by supervisors or colleagues. Whether positive or negative consequences occur depends on the individual situation and is often hard to grasp for the person concerned. Careful consideration of the question whether and how to inform the working environment, might thus easily become overwhelming.


The aim of the present project is the scientifically based construction and implementation of a web-based disease-spanning self-reflection aid, which supports employees with chronic conditions and/or disabilities to make their own self-determined and informed decision on how to deal with their condition at work. Due to the interactive design of the self-reflection aid an individual feedback covering all crucial aspects is generated. Furthermore the self-reflection aid offers reliable information and relegates to well-established support-structures.


The self-reflection aid is developed based upon scientific findings in the field of motivation and decision-making, as well as research concerning the handling of chronic conditions and disabilities at work. The entire developmental process includes the participation of a committee consisting of experts who act for themselves (employees with a chronic condition or disability) and an advisory board which is staffed with relevant stakeholders (e. g. general practitioners, company doctors, self-help organizations, employee representatives, health insurance funds). This is to guarantee needs orientation and acceptance. The self-reflection aid additionally will be implemented according to the German guidelines on the accessibility of information technology (BITV 2.0).


  • Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (BMAS) (Federal Ministry of Labour and social affairs)
  • AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG (AbbVie Germany)

Project run time

30 months

Project management

Prof. Dr. Mathilde Niehaus and Dr. Jana Bauer, University of Cologne, Chair of work and vocational rehabilitation.


M. Sc. Veronika Chakraverty und M. Sc. Anja Greifenberg

Cooperation partners

  • AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG (AbbVie Germany )
  • Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Selbsthilfe von Menschen mit Behinderung und chronischer Erkrankung und ihren Angehörigen e.V. (BAG Selbsthilfe) (Federal Working Group for Selfassistance of People with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses and their Families)
  • Verband Deutscher Betriebs- und Werksärzte e.V. (VDBW) (The German Association of Company Doctors)