Supporting Chronic Illness in the Workplace

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C

hronic illness affects an estimated 17 million Canadians. With conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes and asthma chronic illnesses are often the result of advance age. And as Canada’s workforce begins to get older, that number will begin to rise. Although these conditions can often be managed by treatments and lifestyle changes, support in the workplace for those inflicted is sorely needed.

Monique Gignac from the Institute for Work & Health points out that chronic illness not only affects employee health, but also the company’s bottom line. For example, a worker with arthritis may cost the company an estimated $11,000 per year in lost of work hours and productivity.

To better support those with chronic illness she recommends using the three ‘Cs of Chronic Disease.’ Which are Communication, Coaching and Checking In.

Communication

Making sure that employees know exactly where to find important resources to help them deal with their health issues is critical. Employee privacy may prevent them from disclosing their conditions to managers or colleagues, so giving them the ability to act independently is important.

Coaching

Ensuring that managers are sufficiently trained to handle situations related to chronic illness will mitigate negative situations. As an example, one of the most common signs of chronic illness is sudden change in work performance. If the employee’s manager is aware of this fact, and is able to create an environment where they feel the issue can be discussed freely, they can work together to find a reasonable solution.

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Checking In

Checking in with HR or their managers on a regular basis is crucial to making sure that proper accommodations are being offered. Whether it is flexibility of work hours, or an ergonomically optimized workspace, an open line of communication between all parties is a necessity.

 

By following these three simple rules, employers can ensure that they are providing the proper support for their ailing workers, and maintaining a happy healthy work environment for all.

 

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