More than 1 million people in the UK have bipolar. Bipolar is a mental health condition that causes a person’s mood to swing from one extreme to another.

People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of depression which involves feeling low and lethargic, and episodes of mania which involve feeling very high and overactive.

Bipolar disorder is very different from simple mood swings. Sometimes each extreme episode can last for several weeks or longer. The high and low phases of bipolar are often so severe they interfere with everyday life.

Many people with bipolar struggle to manage responsibilities, including maintaining a job. Careers with Disabilities are here to provide people with bipolar, and their employers, with the advice and resources they need to reach their future potential.

Careers advice for people with bipolar

With the right support, people with bipolar can achieve a successful career. We have compiled some strategies that may help you take control while you work.

  • Find a structured workplace: Most careers involve stress. For people with bipolar, stress can play a huge role in triggering an extreme episode of depression or mania. A structured working environment can be vital in preventing stressors. Creating structure at work could include having as much consistency as possible with the type of projects you work on, the people on your team, working hours and deadlines.
  • Avoid shift work: One of the most important elements of a structured workplace is a consistent schedule. People with bipolar may struggle to manage their symptoms if their working schedule requires night shifts, switch shifts or long hours that could impact sleep.
  • Consider remote work: Remote working opportunities are becoming more and more common since the emergence of Covid-19 and the government-enforced lockdowns that ensued. You may be in a better place to manage your condition if your place of employment offers a work from home option.
  • Flexibility is key: Flexible working schedules, such as flex-time work, are an excellent option for people managing bipolar disorder. This could allow you to choose your own working hours that may help to keep your stress levels low.
  • Be open with your employer: There may be a range of reasonable adjustments your employer can offer you which could help you manage your bipolar at work. Spending time discussing your condition and needs with the HR team could help you thrive in the workplace.

If you have bipolar disorder, several treatment options can make a drastic difference to your wellbeing and quality of life. Visit the NHS website to find out how to access a range of support and treatments to help you manage your condition.

Advice for employers

Careers with Disabilities are here to help employers find appropriate work-based strategies to support an employee with bipolar, enabling them to continue contributing to your company’s success.

Workers may be discriminated against because of the stigma attached to bipolar. This could mean that their skills and abilities are overlooked. As an employer, it is essential to focus on the ability of your staff and not assume limitations based on their disability.

There are many benefits to hiring someone with bipolar, and supporting them in managing their condition in the workplace, including:

  • Trust: Supporting employees that need an extra bit of help to complete their duties will help build trust in your workplace. You will get to know your staff better and develop their confidence in communicating their needs to you.
  • Awareness: As a bipolar-aware employer, you are helping to remove barriers in the workplace. This can increase morale, productivity and engagement within your workplace.
  • Diversity: Recruiting a diverse workforce will ensure your business has a talented pool of staff.

To help support an employee with bipolar, your company may want to consider making reasonable adjustments. Such reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Offering a flexible working pattern;
  • Allowing your employee to choose their preferred seating location in the office;
  • Provide a personal mentor; and
  • Allocating part of their duties to another member of staff if necessary.