Undertaking a PhD and Coeliac Disease

Or: can you do research in Business and Politics looking at your own disease?

After completing my master’s degree, I thought about the possibility to remain in higher education to qualify as a PhD researcher myself but decided against it. It sounded exhausting to deal with a research project and my Coeliac Disease. Until one day, when I realised that I could research life at work with Coeliac Disease.

I am interested in understanding what the experiences of employees are when working and living with Coeliac Disease. I want to show that there is a diverse experience with this autoimmune disease which is not widely recognised in society including our work colleagues, line mangers and those at the top who decide on how wellbeing is managed at work.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

My interest grew into a serious project plan after speaking to two colleagues who live with Coeliac Disease. I was very much fascinated by the story of one of them as the disease did not seem to impact him much. He explained that being offered food was the biggest issue as he felt rude to decline those offers from co-workers which affected his work relationships. The other person had a different experience. She told me that the symptoms of the disease put her in pain. Being required to work in a uniform at work, she said that she often imagined how it would be like to work in a place with a more relaxed dress code. By listening to these two stories, I already had three different experiences which showed the value in letting employees speak about their experiences.

Undeniably, there have been many changes to national and local health and work- related policies over the years. But chronic illness, and visible illness in particular are not well recognised in these frameworks. By proving research on the experience of life with one chronic illness, I want to show that there is a lot more to do to reach equality -from a health perspective- in the workplace.

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