The Link Between Disability Management and Employee Productivity

Posted by: 
Jeff Smith
Insights from The Standard's survey can help pinpoint improvements for a more comprehensive approach to disability management.

We recently conducted a survey that examined the link between disability management and employee productivity. What it found was that employers who take a comprehensive approach to disability management can help get employees back to work sooner and help increase their overall productivity.

Even though having a comprehensive approach to disability management seems like a no-brainer when you look at the advantages, not all employers are providing this type of support. Summer can be the perfect time to rethink your approach to disability management and ensure it focuses on helping employees be as productive as possible.

A few survey insights can help you pinpoint improvements for a better approach:

Employees with health conditions are going to various places for assistance.

The survey found that employees are approaching both their HR managers and direct supervisors for assistance with a health condition. Our findings show that HR managers provided a better overall experience than supervisors — as 49 percent of employees felt they were treated differently by their direct supervisor because of their health condition versus only 39 percent who said the same of working with their HR manager.1

As an employer, you set the tone for the employee experience. The difference in an employee’s experience when navigating a health condition can hinder their return to work or overall feelings about their employer. You can help everyone have a better experience by fostering an inclusive environment that supports employees no matter who they reach out to for assistance. Making it clear to everyone in the company that resources are available via your disability carrier can prompt that inclusive environment.

Employees on a disability leave are often out of work longer when they work with their direct supervisor instead of their HR manager.

The survey also found that employees who worked with their HR managers had a lower disability leave duration than those who worked with their direct supervisor. So, not only do those employees who approach their HR managers feel better about the assistance they’re receiving, but they’re also returning to work sooner.

This stat is surprising for many — because it’s really the opposite of what many believe to be true. I’ve spoken with many supervisors who are surprised that employees wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to them about their condition.

However, the reason could come down to the fact that HR managers often are more aware of helpful resources that can support employees in their return to work — including support from disability carriers, or disease management and employee assistance programs. It’s important to give your entire team a broad, deep toolset that allows them to use their training, experience and creativity to customize an individual approach for each employee. This can be done through your disability carrier and manager training, or level-setting with your organization’s supervisors on what resources are available to support someone who needs assistance in the workplace.

Workplace accommodations can have a large impact on employees, the most helpful of which can be fairly straightforward.

When employees approach their HR manager or supervisor with a condition, accommodations don’t have to be elaborate. Sometimes, simple adjustments are exactly what an employee needs to help boost his or her productivity and help mitigate a health condition. The survey showed that, of the accommodations provided to help support employees’ health conditions or disabilities at work, many were simple adjustments:

  • 61 percent said they were provided with flexibility to attend doctors’ appointments
  • 58 percent were provided with schedule modifications
  • 40 percent noted they received workstation modifications

Resources are available to help you find and source accommodations. This includes your disability carrier, which can help you find a creative solution to an employee’s unique condition.

Consider your approach to disability management and make sure it’s comprehensive. In doing so, you can create positive change within your organization and help keep employees productive.

 

1 Data based on a survey of 611 participants conducted in April 2017 by a third-party research firm hired by Standard Insurance Company.