Any illness that a person has had for a long time is chronic. Living with it means making significant changes in your life. Adapting to new circumstances is not easy, but it grows on you over time.
However, the transition is not only difficult for you but also for the people around you.
Firstly, your friends and family members must adjust their lives to suit your comfort and needs.
While all of that is fine, it also affects your work life. Living with a chronic illness also means showing up for work and doing day-to-day chores.
In times like these, managers/supervisors who come through are a huge blessing and make your life much easier as an employee.
Following is a compilation of ways to make workplaces adaptable for employees suffering from chronic illnesses.
1. Navigating through the illness
Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness is not easy for anybody and navigating through this time is a difficult task.
That person has to make significant changes in their life, such as figuring out what to eat, how and when they have to take medication, their habits, and their lifestyle.
Figuring out finances and treatment plans is another worry that haunts them. In this case, having a good doctor to help you focus is a great blessing, and they can help you adapt to this change in no time.
Furthermore, suppose the illness results from occupational exposure. In that case, it’s good to learn more about legal options for compensation by negligent employers.
2. Clarify the job description
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), employees requesting an accommodation to their medical needs are only required to perform essential functions of the job.
In this case, managers need to clarify the job description to keep both parties on the same page.
This will help prioritize employees with medical conditions without burdening them with added responsibilities.
3. Improving the workplace
Ensuring a safe workplace is the job of a manager. If a worker is diagnosed with an illness due to working conditions, it is imperative to investigate the cause of their disease.
Proper safety procedures and measures should be introduced to prevent any other worker from contracting that illness.
Secondly, employees with chronic medical conditions need to adapt and be resilient to continue working as much as possible.
A worker is only productive if the work environment is conducive to it. Making them feel comfortable and taking care of things revolving around their illness will make them feel valued.
For managers, thinking outside the box is critical here. It’s essential to consider an employee’s stress levels before adjusting to work life.
To make up for time lost at doctor’s appointments, your employees must be allowed to work from the comfort of their homes.
Can they work from home or work part-time? Can their physically demanding tasks at work be changed to more desk-related work? Thinking along these lines and having open dialogues can help develop favorable working conditions for medically challenged employees.
4. Managing your response
An employee’s illness can trigger a series of emotions in you, which is entirely natural.
Those emotions may also be envy because of the perks they receive because of the ‘perks’ they may enjoy due to their illness.
As an employer or manager, this is a sign that you need to take better care of yourself, and you need to make specific changes in your working conditions to take care of your energies better.
5. Improving Employee Experience
As an employer/manager, you can take significant steps to make your workers’ lives more manageable with a chronic illness.
Employees with long-term ailments feel guilty using their condition to hinder them from work. They start working extra hard so that you as a manager do not think they are lazy or incompetent.
It’s important to understand that dealing with their condition takes a lot of their energy, and it’s up to you to keep a vigilant eye on it.
Use such employees for their strengths and do not overwork them. Remember, chronic illness does not appear at the surface, and it often seems like nothing is wrong.
However, their energy is eaten away during the day, fighting the pain and keeping up with their jobs. As a manager, you can ease the load off of them and help them during their day.
6. Creating an open dialogue
It’s essential to make the workplace acceptable to ill employees, which can only be done with sensitive discourse.
Directly approaching an employee with a chronic illness about their ailment is not the correct way; instead, creating an environment for them to come up and speak to you as their manager freely is the better approach.
Colleagues at the workplace can only show a more understanding approach if they know what the illness is and how it works.
Creating awareness can do wonders for that person at your workplace, and people will be more mindful around them.
7. Correct your assumptions
As a manager, it’s important to reflect and manage upon your assumptions. Suggesting that an employee should be able to do some work after they’ve refused to, or you giving suggestions to them about managing their illness portrays your insensitivity to their suffering.
It’s essential to develop empathy for them, and that can only be done with better research about their ailment. Not will it give you an insight into their suffering, it’ll also help you manage them better and help them grow with their illness.
With so many resources available today, catering to workers suffering from chronic illnesses has become more accessible.
With so much information available online, you, as an employer, can familiarize yourself with the said illnesses and make informed decisions to improve the workplace environment and employee experience.
It’s essential to manage your expectations and not be insensitive towards them. This can only be done via open dialogue.
As an employer, you have to create the right environment for that. These little steps mentioned will surely go a long way in making your workplace more inclusive and productive.