Manager Training: A Key Component of Disability Support

Posted by: 
Jeff Smith
Photo of two women discussing information in a notebook

Employers often assume their employees can come to them with anything — even issues related to their health and well-being. In reality, nearly 54 percent of employees feel uncomfortable mentioning a health condition or accident to their superiors.1 This reluctance to talk about their health conditions in the workplace can lead to a decrease in productivity and higher likelihood of a disability leave.

This disconnect leaves you and your employees with a missing piece that could expose a gap in your disability management strategy. By training managers to identify employees who could benefit from assistance early on, you can provide your employees with stay-at-work support that will allow them to remain on the job in a safe and productive manner.

The Power of Manager Training

Although your managers likely have a lot on their plate already, their relationship with employees puts them in the best position to identify those in need of assistance. Since managers have regular face time with each employee, they are more likely to notice if an employee is struggling at work. The feeling that an employee is “off,” or not acting like themselves, can be a key sign that they need help.

When an employee is suffering from a health condition, they may also struggle to perform everyday tasks. When a health condition becomes too much to handle, an employee may hesitate to tell their manager about what’s going on. However, if a manager is trained to notice shifts in behavior pointing toward a health condition, they can be proactive and initiate a conversation to point the employee toward HR to initiate workplace resources that can provide support.

Connection to Resources

Once the initial conversation happens, a manager can then direct an employee to HR. Identifying an employee who needs stay-at-work assistance is crucial. The earlier the employee is identified and referred to a disability carrier, the earlier he or she can be connected with resources provided by your employee benefits programs or provided with accommodations.

The most beneficial part of this approach is that identifying an employee with a health condition early on can help them receive help before a disability leave is needed. This also can help with overall department morale, since managers are taking a direct and caring interest in their employees. Employees whose managers are invested in their well-being make them feel valued and connected in the workplace.

Communication Is Key

While identifying employees who are candidates for stay-at-work assistance doesn’t always prevent a disability leave, communicating with employees while they are on leave can provide them with additional support and ensure that their return to work is successful.

By learning about any job restrictions or limitations an employee might face upon returning, managers can help provide accommodations to avoid a lack of productivity or additional time on leave. It also helps ensure that employees feel comfortable talking to their manager about any concerns they might have.

To create a better and more productive workforce, you must first take care of your employees. By training managers, they can notice the warning signs of a health condition and better support those struggling with stay-at-work and return-to-work resources. Equipping managers with the proper knowledge prepares them to intervene and keep employees productive and happy at work.


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