February 2, 2024
Support and Enable Employees Facing Health Challenges
American Hospital Association estimates that 133 million Americans – nearly half the population – suffer from at least one chronic illness, such as hypertension, arthritis, heart disease and stroke, cancer, or diabetes. The CDC reports that six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease. These and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in America. The rise of chronic disease contributes to the likelihood that workers will suffer a serious health event during their careers.
HR professionals are working to develop a compassionate and supportive work environment for employees dealing with health issues. Doing so helps sick and recovering workers keep fighting through tough health challenges. And, the support workers receive from HR helps them preserve and regain their ability to contribute value to the organization.
A health-conscious HR approach can powerfully elevate a company’s reputation and offer strategic human capital benefits. Retention rates and engagement rise when employees witness the organization’s positive response to health-challenged colleagues. Workers see compassion playing out in front of them and develop a strong belief that their employer deeply values its people.
Accommodate Limitations: Restructure and Redesign
Restructure how work gets done.
With a bit of creativity, the employer and employee can work together to reshape the employee’s work process and resolve challenges their illness might pose. Leaders can ask questions to gain clarity on the most important things the employee feels they need to perform their work. They can make it safe for them to share about the different aspects of their illness in open-ended conversation. Honest communication may point the way to solutions for employees to continue working to their full potential. Some examples of restructuring workflow include:
Address physical limitations.
Orient the employee with ADA modifications that create an easier, more accessible work environment.
Move their desk location to reduce steps.
Move meeting locations to an easier access point.
Move group meeting times to accommodate the employee’s need for sleep, therapy, treatments, rest breaks, etc.
Revise the work schedule.
Offer flexible work hours and remote or hybrid work setup.
If there are any upcoming medical procedures or appointments, plan the team agenda around them on the calendar.
Ensure the rest of the team is aware of planned absences and on board to serve during those times.
Redesign the Employee’s Role
A redesign of the role performed by the employee facing health challenges means adjusting their job duties temporarily or permanently. Strategies could include the following.
Specialize. – An employee may become specialized in the part of their job that can be done efficiently and effectively while other tasks are offloaded to other workers.
Upskill for another position. Examples are- providing computer skills to move a physical laborer to deskwork, and preparing the employee for a different role that requires no travel.
If Accommodations Aren’t an Option –
HR teams can proactively educate the employee on their state and federally-afforded disability benefits. They can walk the employee through their FMLA leave rights, explaining what qualifies them and the specific leave benefits that apply. Additionally, the organization can offer the employee an additional short-term disability benefit through the company.
Mental Health and Well-being Support
Employees who are facing a serious health challenge can also end up suffering exhaustive mental stress, which can lead to a mental health diagnosis. The National Institute for Mental Health warns that people facing chronic illnesses such as autoimmune diseases, cancer, or diabetes are at higher risk of developing depression or an anxiety disorder. Employers can help sick and recovering employees improve their mental outlook by providing a personal coaching benefit they can access while on leave or in any phase of re-entry.
TaskHuman supports employees living with sudden or chronic illnesses with well-being and personal coaches available on demand through the TaskHuman Platform. Individuals can find coaches who specialize in many different aspects of healing and assemble a team of experts who can help them overcome specific and highly personal difficulties. Learn more about TaskHuman’s Well-being offering.
The coaching benefit can prevent a sick employee from becoming isolated. Employees struggling with illness may have loving family and friends but still avoid sharing their true feelings. They can often bottle up fears and frustrations because they don’t want to worry or bring down those they care about. Having a third-party coach available to vent feelings and frustrations can help a sick employee release emotional pressure and avoid the costly mental effects of keeping it all inside. An experienced coach can help the employee keep their emotional responses in perspective and develop healthy mental practices that assist their physical healing instead of hinder it.
Focus on Preventative
With mental health and well-being support firmly in place for employees, it’s possible to ward off some health conditions entirely or at least minimize their impact. TaskHuman’s health and well-being coaches help employees stay alert to their physical and mental needs and help them address issues before they develop into more complex health problems. The State of New York Health Department explains that lifestyle changes and awareness can prevent many chronic and common diseases. Coaches can bring the awareness employees need and get them applicable steps to keep control of their physical and mental health rather than becoming another statistic.
Given the current health statistics, chances are high that someone on the work team is already suffering from an illness that needs more HR and corporate support. HR can help to change the trajectory of unwell workers by enacting a support plan that enables employees to keep serving well in their company while they fight hard for their health.
Curious about how TaskHuman can support your organization’s well-being initiatives this year? Let’s chat!
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