HR Management & Compliance

Making HR the Hub of Disability Management

When I ask direct supervisors who their employees go to for assistance about a health condition in the workplace, they’re quick to say, “Me! My employees know they can come to me with anything.” While it may be true that direct supervisors have a good relationship with their employees, it can often be challenging or uncomfortable talking to a boss about a specific health condition.

To better understand whom employees go to for help in the workplace, Standard Insurance Company (The Standard) conducted a survey[1] to gauge from whom and how employees receive support for health conditions at work. The findings show that there’s a variety of places employees go to for help, which can impact their overall disability management experience.

More Negative Experiences Happened with Direct Supervisors

We found that employees tended to have a more negative experience or had more concerns about working with a direct supervisor. The findings show that when working with a direct supervisor:

  • 53% of employees were too scared to bring up a health concern.
  • 49% felt they were treated differently after talking about their health condition.
  • 54% were uncomfortable discussing it.
  • 53% felt their direct supervisor had low expectations they could perform their job effectively because of the health condition.

This shows that these negative experiences and perceptions can be holding many employees back from getting the help they need. When an employee fails to report his or her condition, he or she not only suffers unnecessarily but also experiences a loss of productivity. In order to avoid these challenges, it’s important to put HR at the center of the disability management process.

By making HR the hub of disability management, you can help minimize these concerns and create a more positive experience for employees. Based on our survey findings, 73% of employees felt like their HR manager knew how to support them after discussing their health condition. Beyond knowing how to properly support at-risk employees, here are several other reasons why working with an HR manager can be more beneficial for employees and, ultimately, your organization’s bottom line.

A More Positive Employee Experience

Communication with employees on leave is key in accelerating their return to work. We found that employees who worked with an HR manager were 15% more likely to receive communication on leave and returned to work 44% faster than when they worked with their direct supervisor.

Consistent communication with employees can create an experience that helps them feel supported. Employees reported feeling more valued and productive after discussing their condition with their HR manager. Survey results show that 73% of employees felt like their HR manager knew how to provide the right support for their condition versus 61% of employees who worked with their direct supervisor. These results further illustrate the importance of consistent communication from HR.

Join us tomorrow for part two of this article, where we will discuss connecting to additional resources and the importance of accommodations.

Jeffery D. Smith is the Workplace Possibilities program practice consultant for The Standard and has worked in the vocational rehabilitation field for more than 30 years. In his role, Smith is continually looking at ways to improve the Workplace Possibilities program to provide new and better stay-at-work and return-to-work services for both employers and employees. He shares the benefits of the program with new and existing clients, creates white papers, and writes case studies to help make a difference for employers that are looking to be more successful in managing employee absence and disability.

[1] Data based on a survey of 528 participants conducted in April 2017 by a third-party research firm hired by Standard Insurance Company. https://www.standard.com/eforms/19911.pdf