While meeting with one of our customers recently, I had a conversation that could only be described as an “aha” moment. The HR manager was surprised to know that before a claim is even filed, disability management programs, similar to the Workplace Possibilities℠ program, can help an employee who is experiencing a disabling condition.
Implementing a proactive approach
As a human resources manager, you may be used to the claims-first approach where you can only start helping an employee after he or she is on a disability leave. Comprehensive disability programs like Workplace Possibilities, which have a proactive approach, are a shift from that thinking. These programs often have experts, or disability consultants, who can get involved with you and your employee as soon as possible to keep the employee healthy, happy and productive at work.
Since this approach may be new for you or your organization, I usually recommend the following strategies to help make a proactive partnership most effective:
- Set up regular meetings with your disability consultant. In these meetings, whether in person or over the phone, you and a consultant from your disability program can discuss any cues that may be signaling an employee in need of assistance or if you have an employee who has made his or her condition known.
- Identify an employee who may need assistance. Once you’ve identified that an employee may need help, your consultant can learn about the specifics of your employee’s condition and help relieve any problems associated with it. For example, you may tell your consultant about an employee who has been taking intermittent leave regularly and you suspect it may be due to a medical condition. Disability consultants can assess the employee’s situation, obtain medical documentation from the employee’s medical provider and make arrangements to ease the condition, ultimately helping to keep that employee at work.
The benefits of a proactive approach
There are a few ways you and your employees can benefit from a proactive intervention:
- Tailored support to help alleviate symptoms. Consultants can meet with you and your employee — as well as with his or her medical team — to learn the specifics of the employee’s situation. They will make sure to understand the job functions and tasks of the employee. Then, these consultants will provide informed suggestions and can help coordinate the recommended accommodations.
- Take work off your plate. This approach can allow you and your employees to be more productive. Once you reach out, consultants can help by communicating with all parties, facilitating meetings and making solid recommendations, all while keeping you informed of progress.
It may be surprising, but a consultant from your disability carrier can help an employee whether he or she has just recently exhibited symptoms, has been on disability leave for months or is at a point in between. Don’t hesitate to talk with an employee to see how you can start helping him or her, hopefully before a claim is even filed.