Accommodations: It’s not just about the chair

Accommodations: It’s not just about the chair

As a disability consultant, I’m one of the first to help employers realize that employees with chronic pain — or another type of disabling illness or injury — can benefit from workplace accommodations, such as a chair. The chair is an important part of the puzzle to help an employee’s productivity, depending on his or her specific medical condition.

Although this may sound relatively straightforward, it may not be the case. Because, honestly, it’s not just about the chair.

Two services, one goal

When an employee who has back pain also has an underlying condition, such as obesity, diabetes or is a chronic smoker, the chair may be skimming the surface as far as help is concerned. You could be missing the boat in terms of providing an employee the necessary services needed to successfully stay at work or return to work.

Your employee assistance program (EAP) vendor can be a great resource for connecting employees with counseling and referrals, among many other things. But I have another resource in mind, too — a consultant from your disability carrier. Why? Because this person can work collaboratively with you and your EAP to ensure the employee is getting the complete accommodation he or she may need to resume their normal, productive life.

Connecting the dots

Employers are constantly asking me how they can increase the use of their existing benefits package. Many have spent significant amounts of money on services such as disease management and EAP services, but can’t get employees to use them.

I always tell these employers that engaging and communicating with employees about your EAP and related offerings — such as disease management or health coaching programs — will often require more than just a note on your company intranet site or poster in the break room.

Luckily, you’re not the only one who can help get the word out about your health management programs. In fact, disability consultants are trained to help employees who are experiencing a disabling illness or injury. This assistance may include pointing to your company’s existing programs. Some disability carriers will even connect the employee with benefits offered through competing carriers if it means getting the employee the care they truly need.

In summary, the back pain case looks like this: The employee works with a disability consultant to not only get set up with a proper-fitting chair, but also to get a referral to the company’s health management program for assistance with their weight and diabetes. Bonus? This can all be accomplished without putting a burden on you, or other members of your HR team.

This isn’t a success just because the employee got the proper care for their current problem — ideally, they’ll also become a healthier and more productive employee along the way.

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