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3 Steps to Evolve Your Disability Management Program

This week’s blog is brought to you by Optis’ Business Development Analyst, David Spring.

According to a 2014 survey published by the Employers Health Coalition, there’s a likely chance that 2 out of every 10 employees in your organization have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Depression is just one of many mental illness diagnoses responsible for 30% of all disability costs. In fact, it’s probable that 1 in 10 of your workers may have missed an average of 10 days a year of work due to a depression diagnosis.

With mental illness on the rise, what steps can your organization take to better manage your disability management program and help your employees? Here are a few steps:

Step 1: A Shift in Mindset The first step, as an employer, involves recognition of mental illness as not just a disability but a prevalent hurdle in the workplace. According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health less than one-third of employees with mental health illness even receive treatment. Why? The reasons are many, but one key reason is fear of the potential loss of employment because of the stigma that is often associated with it. Also, recognition of mental illness involves the understanding that other disabilities are sometimes the result of mental illness. For example, obesity is highly correlated with depression and other mental health diagnoses. In other words, mental illness doesn’t necessarily present itself with obvious symptoms. What’s the point? Recognition and appreciation of mental health illness requires a broad understanding of the potential signs and symptoms associated with these types of disabilities. How can this be overcome? Changes in workplace culture are needed. A shift in mindset is required.

Step 2: Make Sure Your Policies and Processes are In Check Ensure you are including mental health benefits as part of your overall benefits program. Having this program in place will not only help employees while absent from work, but will also help employees return at the right time. Also, check the message you are sending to employees. As recommended by the National Mental Health Association and the National Council for Behavioral Health, employers need to change the message they are sending whether inadvertently or not, if the message is negative. What else can employers do to support employees with mental illnesses besides creating a stigma-free environment? Managers should be encouraged to have an open, proactive communication processes in place with employees.

Step 3: Ensure Your Disability Management isn’t Occurring in a Vacuum Disability management shouldn’t occur in a vacuum. Your organization should have a centralized system to manage leave, accommodation requests, the interactive process and solid data around your integrated disability metrics. Having a concrete process in place will be more beneficial for the employee and bottom-line productivity will be enhanced.

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Interesting in learning more about proactively managing employee accommodations and accommodation requests? Contact us.

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