Accommodating Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Workforce

In part 1 of this article, we discussed how the fight for top talent is requiring employers to invest in keeping their current staff healthy and productive. Comprehensive disability management programs can be a key part of this approach—helping assess employees’ needs, connecting them with workplace resources, and providing accommodation recommendations to help them stay at work or return to work comfortably.

When discussing what accommodations may be right for an employee, here are frequently asked questions I receive from HR professionals on the best ways to provide tailored support to meet their workforces’ needs.

What Are Common Hurdles HR Professionals and Employees Face When Considering Accommodations?

There are numerous barriers and misperceptions that exist in the workplace about asking for assistance for a health condition that make employees cautious of asking for accommodations in the first place. A recent survey conducted by The Standard[1] found employees who worked with HR managers said their greatest concern was that requesting an accommodation(s) would be a hassle for their employer. Employees who worked with their direct supervisor thought that if they asked for accommodations, they could be at risk of losing their job.

These concerns can be a deterrent for employees seeking the assistance to stay at work or when coming back from a disability leave. As we covered in Part 1 of this article, this is where a disability carrier can help connect employees with available resources and recommend reasonable accommodations to fit their individual needs.

What Types of Accommodations Are Available?

Accommodations should always be tailored to an employee’s specific health condition and job functions. For example, an employee with a chronic condition can benefit from straightforward accommodations such as a modified schedule and the flexibility to attend doctors’ appointments. Other accommodations could include workstation modifications or transitional job responsibilities until an employee is fully recovered.

A disability carrier can be crucial in implementing these accommodations, monitoring the employee’s progress and communicating between the employer and employee to help ensure everyone is informed. Some disability carriers can even assist with finding the right vendors, sourcing equipment, and working directly with an organization’s facilities services team to get the accommodations installed.

Can Accommodations Increase Productivity?

They can. We’ve found that employees who receive accommodations from their employer tend to feel more valued and productive at work. Of the surveyed employees who received accommodations for their health condition, 93% said they could perform their job effectively after receiving support from their employer. In addition, employees who were provided accommodations returned to work more than 30 days sooner than employees who weren’t provided with support, on average.

Accommodations don’t have to be complex to be effective. With many accommodations such as reduced hours, alternate tasks, or station modifications, it may not cost anything for an employer to implement. Consider, too, from a productivity and rate of investment (ROI) standpoint, the cost of providing reasonable accommodations to an employee can be very minor when you consider the cost of having to hire and onboard a new employee.

What Regulations Do I Need to Know About When Accommodating an Employee?

Many employers still struggle with how to help their employees stay at work while experiencing a health condition or return to work after a disability leave. Employers may be better able to meet their Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) obligations by working with their disability carrier to create a proactive program that tailors a plan to support an employee’s unique needs.

If employers need specific assistance with ADAAA regulations, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can be a great resource. JAN stays up to date on regulations and offers tips to help employers find reasonable accommodations for employees.

Brian Kost is the senior director for The Standard’s Workplace Possibilities program. He’s been with The Standard since 2007 and was instrumental in creating the program that exists today. He implements and coordinates several on-site programs that allow employees to get back to work more quickly and maintain productivity, and he develops and maintains the metrics that monitor companies’ success. With more than 30 years of experience, Kost is a results-driven manager with a successful track record of innovative program design in reducing absence, improving return-to-work outcomes, and helping employees become more productive. He holds a master’s degree in career and guidance counseling. He also is a certified rehabilitation counselor and ergonomist.

[1] Data based on a survey of 528 participants conducted in April 2017 by a third-party research firm hired by The Standard.