Supporting Employee Success. A Tool to Plan Accommodations that Support Success at Work

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1 Supporting Employee A Tool to Plan Accommodations that Support at Work

2 Supporting Employee A Tool to Plan Accommodations that Support at Work Table of Contents Background... Page 1 How the process works... Page 1 Accommodation forms... Page 4 14 This resource was created by Dr. Ian Arnold and Suzanne Arnold, PhD, with input from Dr. David Brown and Dr. David Posen. Thanks to members of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Donna Hardaker and Stéphane Grenier, for their valuable feedback.

3 Background In June 2013, a forum of Occupational Health Professionals discussed workplace mental health and the challenges around accommodation of employees with mental illness. The forum was supported by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. The group concluded that there is a need for a process for healthcare professionals, employees and workplaces to use when an employee may be in need of an accommodation. The outcome of this need was the development of Supporting Employee, a process that: Helps assess work-related triggers for emotional or cognitive issues Supports a thoughtful approach to finding accommodations that may best support success for the employee Facilitates the employee s well-being while meeting the requirement for a safe and productive workplace Supporting Employee : Can be used on its own, or as part of an existing approach, to support an employee s accommodation needs Follows a sequence to gather information, using four parts that are filled in and then passed back and forth from employer to employee and healthcare professional Helps to fully explore the job and task expectations of the individual employee, and consider them in relation to specific workplace factors that can have an impact on the psychological well-being of the employee Many opinions exist about what constitutes the best approach to ensure a successful accommodation. The areas covered in this process were developed from a review of related literature and input from the occupational health community. It s important to note that not all of the factors or job expectations named may be applicable to each accommodation situation, and there may be other factors not mentioned that should be considered as they emerge during the process. The ideas that may support success are adapted from Workplace Strategies for Mental Health and are specifically for psychological health-related concerns, and do not cover other physical accommodation needs, such as side-effects from medication. The ideas shared are no cost or low cost to implement, except for a small investment of time and/or a change in communication approach. The free resource Managing Mental Health Matters provides training, resources and support to help managers develop the competency to have effective conversations with their employees, including learning how to implement a workplace plan. How the process works This process is recommended for: 1. An employer developing an accommodation plan for an employee who remains at work 2. An employer developing a return-to-work accommodation plan for an employee who is returning to work, where there may not be an external consultant or supports involved in return-to-work planning If the employee is returning to work from a disability and external consultants are involved, you may want to adjust the Supporting Employee process to include this role in the process. For the overall process to be successful, the following basic tenets must exist. If they do not, the process may not be helpful, and could even make the situation worse. The three basic tenets necessary for success are: 1. The workplace is committed to accommodating the employee through an ongoing collaborative process 2. The employee wants to stay at work/return to work and will strive to do the job with accommodations that are reasonable and acceptable to both the employee and the workplace 3. The job expectations and the needs of the employee, with regard to accomplishing the requirements of the job, are clearly understood The process must, at all times, respect medical confidentiality. Medical confidentiality means that the healthcare professional should not provide any information about the employee s medical diagnosis unless the employee specifically requests in writing that the information be provided to the employer as part of this process. The focus of the conversation is more on capabilities and competencies related to workplace function rather than on diagnosis or symptoms. Supporting Employee 1

4 What does the Supporting Employee process include? Part 1 Job Expectations to be completed by employer, employee and healthcare professional 1. Memory 2. Exposure to Environmental Stimuli 3. Attention to Detail Healthcare professional physician, psychologist, occupational health professional (occupational medicine physician, occupational health nurse), occupational therapist, social worker Other possible participants e.g., union representative, disability case manager, rehabilitation consultant, industrial hygienist, safety professionals, etc. These people should be involved to provide further information, suggestions or support, depending on the structure of the organization and its disability management practices. 4. Overlapping Tasks 5. Time Pressures 6. Working Relationships 7. Exposure to Emotionally Stressful Situations How does the process work? The process includes the use of four parts within this booklet to be completed by the employer, the employee and/or the healthcare professional. 8. Exposure to Confrontational Situations Part 2 Workplace Supports to be completed by the employer Part 3 Employer and Employee Additional Part 4 Supporting Conversation to be completed by healthcare professional Suggested Wording to Include in an Employer s Letter to the healthcare professional When should the process be introduced? The process can be introduced by an employer when there is evidence that an employee might require some form of accommodation to remain at work. It might also be introduced at the time an employee is ready to return to work from disability leave. Who is involved in the process? Employer the supervisor, manager and/or other qualified individuals who can support employee success Employee Step 1 Employer Completes the employer section of Part 1 Job Expectations using the instructions provided: Fills in requirements for each Job Expectation and provides additional information as needed Deletes suggestions in the column that are not practical and adds any new suggestions not included Completes Part 2 Workplace Supports to be completed by employer Completes the Employer Additional section of Part 3 Employer and Employee Additional and identifies the top two or three items as priorities. Considers these effective strategies for all job expectations: Provide manager training, support and resources to allow for more effective responses to support employee performance Have brief weekly meetings (10 minutes or less) to help deal with issues before they become serious Discover, through discussion and trial, which management approaches can best support the employee s success 2 Supporting Employee

5 If applicable, completes a letter to the healthcare professional (see suggested wording below) (Employer s name) is interested in helping ensure that our employees are able to have a successful return-to-work experience. To help in achieving a successful return to work, we need your assessment of your patient s capabilities. With the focus on capabilities, rather than on limitations, we can achieve reasonable accommodation as this will allows us to identify and manage gaps in perspective between the employee s understanding and the workplace s expectations. Our employee, (insert name), will meet in consultation with you to determine those job aspects that may affect (his or her) health. (Insert name) will give you a booklet that provides information in Parts 1-3 describing the job expectations and current workplace realities. (Insert name) may have already completed (his or her) part, or may complete this with you. We ask you to fill in Part 4 Supporting Conversation while in discussion with (insert name). Together, these documents will provide us with valuable, non-medical information that can help us develop a workplace plan. As a result of this consultation, we will use your recommendations to help the employee to successfully return to work. (Employer s name) recognizes that this is a time-consuming request and will pay you (insert amount) for review and completion of the forms. Please send your invoice for this amount to:. Thank you in advance for your help with enhancing (insert employee s name) return-to-work experience. Step 2 Employee (and possibly with the assistance of a healthcare professional) The employee reads the information provided by the employer, and completes the employee sections, or takes the form to his or her healthcare professional to fill in together. Completes the Employee Assessment of Current Abilities and Employee section of Part 1 Job Expectations with healthcare professional or alone. Completes the Employee Additional section of Part 2 Employer and Employee Additional and identifies top two or three items as priorities. Gives the booklet (completed so far) and letter to the healthcare professional for input. Step 3 Healthcare professional (with the employee) Reviews Part 1 Job Expectations and the employer and employee responses and comments. Discusses with the employee using instructions provided, and indicates the most applicable support ideas, and adds comments. Completes Part 4 Supporting Conversation, in discussion with the employee. Reviews Part 2 Workplace Supports and discusses other resources available to the employee. Gives the booklet and invoice (if applicable) to the employee. The healthcare professional may want to send a copy of the booklet with invoice to the employer. Step 4 Employee and Employer The employee returns the booklet to the employer. The employer reviews input from employee and healthcare professional. Give the booklet (completed so far) and letter to the employee to take to the healthcare professional. The employer adds, as need be, further comments/information about suggested. The employer arranges to meet with employee to discuss the completed booklet, and to create a comprehensive workplace plan to support success. Supporting Employee 3

6 Accommodation Forms Part 1: Job Expectations Part 2: Workplace Supports Part 3: Employer and Employee Additional Part 4: Supporting Conversation Part 1 Job Expectation #1 Memory The ability to recall and retrieve, on demand, information that has been previously learned. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee Little or no need to remember information and apply to work tasks Basic memory skills are needed to recall information that is applied to work tasks on a regular basis, without rigid time constraints Moderate memory ability is required to recall information that is recalled infrequently, or because there is time pressure to recall the information High memory ability is required to recall many different pieces of detailed information and/or sequences which may have to be recalled in demanding situations (e.g., due to deadline pressures) I am able to remember many different pieces of detailed information under varying circumstances that may include demanding situations I am able to recall information that is infrequently used or when there are time pressures I am able to recall information that is applied to frequent work tasks and with moderate time pressures I have difficulty recalling information and applying it to work tasks Use recording devices (e.g., smart phone or digital recorder) to provide playback of information discussed at meetings Use digital organizers or handwritten notes as ongoing to-do lists, marking off items as they are completed Provide instructions and assignments in writing to help provide clarity and improve recall Set up regular reminders of upcoming milestones, appointments or deadlines Arrange regular meetings between supervisor and employee to set priorities and keep work on track Provide retraining and/or re-orientation during the first month of return to work, especially for any leave of 12 weeks or more Consider individualized training approaches such as increased learning time, reading materials in advance, or applied learning to help improve comprehension and retention 4 Supporting Employee

7 Job Expectation #2 Exposure to Environmental Stimuli The ability to work effectively in the presence of distracting visual, auditory or other sensory stimuli. Auditory stimuli may include verbal conversations of colleagues in an open office area, phones ringing, alarms sounding, motors running, and noises that are loud, constant, sudden or unpredictable. Visual stimuli may include lighting, the movement of people, vehicles or objects. Other sensory stimuli may include heat, cold, strong odors from perfumes, chemicals or food. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee Little or no distracting stimuli I am able to work effectively with a high degree of distracting stimuli Provide a quieter work space with fewer visual and/or auditory distractions Minor degree of distracting stimuli present during some tasks or at times during a shift Moderate degree of distracting stimuli during some tasks or at times during the shift High degree of distracting stimuli are present for the majority of the shift or for any portion of a shift where it is essential to work effectively despite distracting stimuli I am able to work effectively with a moderate degree of distracting stimuli I am able to work effectively with a minor degree of distracting stimuli I have difficulty working effectively with distracting stimuli Employee listens to soothing music using headphones Employee wears earplugs to reduce noise distraction. Increase natural lighting in the work area. Reduce clutter in the work area Minimize use of scents if the employee has indicated this as a concern. Consider implementing a scentreduced workplace policy. Consider ways to modify or buffer impact of noise Supporting Employee 5

8 Job Expectation #3 Attention to Detail The ability to perform work tasks that require attention to, or concentration on, detailed information. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee Attention to or concentration on details is not required Attention to detail or concentration is required for some tasks, although not at an intense level Significant attention to detail or concentration required for many tasks or intense attention to detail or concentration required for some tasks I am able to concentrate on, or attend to, details at an intense level I am able to concentrate on, or attend to, details at a significant level for many tasks or at an intense level for some tasks I am able to concentrate on, or attend to, details for some tasks, although not at an intense level Remove any non-essential functions of the job to focus energy on the essential tasks Break large tasks into a series of smaller tasks Allocate more time to attend to work requiring attention to detail Allow for short breaks when concentration declines. (Even standing up for 10 seconds can improve concentration.) Provide instructions and assignments in writing Consider individualized training approaches such as increased learning time, reading materials in advance, or applied learning to help improve comprehension and retention Intense attention to detail or concentration is required for the majority of the job tasks I have difficulty when required to concentrate on, or attend to, details Exchange tasks with other employees that maintain the balance of work while capitalizing on the strengths of each employee (e.g., if this employee performs well doing client contact, the employee takes on another employee s client contact tasks in exchange for tasks that are detail-oriented, such as policy work) 6 Supporting Employee

9 Job Expectation #4 Overlapping Tasks The ability to perform and/or monitor more than one task or function at a time, and to judge when tasks or functions require attention. It involves the ability to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee Not responsible for concurrent overlapping tasks Some responsibility for overlapping tasks, but with very clear guidelines or cues about when to perform each task Responsible for overlapping tasks, with some time management skill and judgment required to determine priorities I am able to perform a high number of multiple tasks requiring time management skill and judgment to determine and make decisions about priorities I am able to perform a moderate number of multiple tasks requiring time management skill and judgment to determine and make decisions about priorities I am able to perform more than one task, but require cues or guidelines to indicate when to do each task Support the employee to complete fewer tasks at a time until capacity is increased Modify workplace processes to allow employee to focus on one task at a time, if practical Outline clear, specific and measurable expectations with all tasks Co-create a way for priorities to be determined and understood by employer and employee Provide opportunities for retraining on tasks to support proficiency Provide opportunities for training on time management skills Constantly responsible for overlapping tasks and/or functions and must exercise a high degree of judgment to determine when to attend to each task I have difficulty performing more than one task at a time Allow for some or all of the work to be done at home, if practical Consider job-sharing arrangements Supporting Employee 7

10 Job Expectation #5 Time Pressures The ability to complete tasks within a given time period, the ability to work quickly when required, and/or the ability to manage time effectively so that all tasks are completed on time and at an acceptable level of quality. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee Employee is not exposed to time pressures because the work is self-paced, breaks readily available I am able to work well and am comfortable when I am faced with time or work volume pressures Time pressure is low with occasional pressure to meet deadlines or time pressures, the volume of work and the pace of work are moderate, breaks possible Time pressure is moderate with deadlines or time pressures and/or the volume of work is high and the pace of work is moderately fast, breaks rare Time pressure is high with the majority of work performed under rigid time pressures, the volume of work is high, the pace of work is high and/or the employee must at times extend the workday to manage the volume of work, little or no breaks I am able to work at a moderately fast pace and can mostly perform well under time pressures I am able to work at a moderate pace and can occasionally work under time pressures I often have difficulty working quickly, meeting deadlines or time pressures, and/or managing my time 8 Supporting Employee

11 Job Expectation #5 Time Pressures (continued) Co-create a process that clearly establishes and monitors timelines Consider if more time can be provided to complete priority tasks at high quality Co-create a set of milestones to inform employer and employee when tasks are done. This will help to determine about how long it takes the employee to complete tasks. Consider if support or resources can be provided to assist with quality if speed is crucial Co-create a way for priorities to be determined and understood by employer and employee Provide advance notice of deadlines If appropriate, facilitate communication among all team members to ensure effective completion of projects Modify written instructions to improve clarity and recall Supporting Employee 9

12 Job Expectation #6 Working Relationships The ability to work well with others in co-operation and collaboration. This may include team projects, shared job duties, and social interactions with management and co-employees. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee Not required to work closely with others to perform job tasks, other than to receive direction from supervisor; does not work in physical proximity to co-employees so social interaction is minimal I am able to work co-operatively and collaboratively with others on all tasks and in all situations Infrequently required to work in cooperation with others to complete job tasks, works in physical proximity to others I am able to work co-operatively and collaboratively with others on most tasks and in most situations Required to work in co-operation with others for some tasks, works in physical proximity to others I am somewhat able to work co-operatively and collaboratively with others, and occasionally have difficulty working co-operatively and collaboratively with others The job position requires close collaboration with others, works in physical proximity to others I work best when working alone and have difficulty working co-operatively and collaboratively with others 10 Supporting Employee

13 Job Expectation #6 Working Relationships (continued) Outline clear and measurable expectations for all employees Discuss with the employee how he or she can best hear open and honest feedback Create a respectful workplace policy and provide training to all staff Provide all staff with training on building a socially supportive workplace Provide training for managers and supervisors to increase their capacity to model effective communication in the workplace Develop processes and strategies to deal effectively with conflict Support the employee to define what constitutes a professional working relationship and how all employees should be supported to be professional at work and held accountable. Use this agreed-upon format for future accountability of all parties. Define how success will be measured (i.e., no critical comments in team meetings, no outbursts, etc.) Explain the expectations for behaviours to any co-employees who may be involved, without sharing any personal or medical information Allow the option of not attending work-related social functions Provide supportive employment services or a work coach to build the employee s ability to engage effectively with co-employees Supporting Employee 11

14 Job Expectation #7 Exposure to Emotionally Stressful Situations Ability to work effectively in emotionally stressful situations or when exposed to emotionally distressed individuals in person or over the telephone. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee No exposure to emotionally stressful circumstances or emotionally distressed individuals in the normal course of duties I am able to tolerate frequent exposure (e.g., daily) to emotionally stressful circumstances or individuals who are experiencing emotional distress Infrequent exposure (approx. monthly) to emotionally stressful circumstances or emotionally distressed individuals with whom the employee must interact in order to complete job requirements I am able to tolerate occasional exposure (e.g., weekly) to emotionally stressful circumstances or individuals who are experiencing emotional distress Occasional exposure (approx. weekly) to emotionally stressful circumstances or emotionally distressed individuals with whom the employee must interact in order to complete job requirements I am able to tolerate infrequent exposure (e.g., monthly) to emotionally stressful circumstances or individuals who are experiencing emotional distress Frequent exposure (approx. daily) to emotionally stressful circumstances or emotionally distressed individuals with whom the employee must interact to complete job requirements I am unable to work effectively in emotionally stressful circumstances or with individuals who are experiencing emotional distress 12 Supporting Employee

15 Job Expectation #7 Exposure to Emotionally Stressful Situations (continued) Provide genuine praise and positive reinforcement during the work week Allow more frequent breaks (e.g., three 5-minute breaks rather than one 15-minute break) Consider how to provide or increase support for the employee in situations that are emotionally stressful Allow reasonable time off to attend counselling sessions or medical appointments Modify instructions and feedback to reduce stress responses. This may include putting instructions in writing to improve clarity and recall. Allow reasonable phone calls (up to 15 minutes per day, and preferably during break time) to doctors or others to gain necessary support during the workday Provide supportive employment services or a work coach Supporting Employee 13

16 Job Expectation #8 Exposure to Confrontational Situations Ability to work effectively when confronted by an individual or encountering confrontational situations requiring the employee to take action. The confrontation may be in person or over the telephone. The employee may be encountering an individual whose behaviour is argumentative, verbally or physically aggressive or abusive, insistent, hostile, loud, threatening or disruptive. Employer Requirements to Fulfil Job Expectations Employer Employee Assessment of Current Abilities Employee No exposure to confrontational situations in the normal course of duties Occasional exposure (up to weekly) to confrontational situations in which assistance for the employee is immediately available Occasional exposure to confrontational situations (up to weekly) where assistance for the employee is not immediately available Frequent exposure (up to daily) to confrontational situations or hostile people where assistance may or may not be available I am able to tolerate frequent exposure (approx. daily) to confrontational situations when other assistance is not available I am able to tolerate occasional exposure (up to weekly) to confrontational situations in which other assistance is not immediately available I am able to tolerate occasional exposure (up to weekly) to confrontational situations in which other assistance is immediately available I am unable to work effectively in confrontational situations Review policies and practices related to confrontational situations with the employee Consider how to provide or increase support for the employee in situations that are potentially confrontational Exchange tasks with other employees that maintain the balance of work while capitalizing on the strengths of each employee (e.g., if this employee performs well doing administrative tasks, the employee could temporarily take on another employee s administration tasks in exchange for tasks that may involve confrontational situations. Help ensure that this approach will not result in resentment or hostility of co-employees by considering potential solutions that also support good working relationships.) Allow more frequent breaks (e.g., three 5-minute breaks rather than one 15-minute break) 14 Supporting Employee

17 Part 2 Workplace Supports (to be completed by the employer) Organizational supports and initiatives that address the psychological health and safety of all employees. Organizational Initiatives and Supports Remarks Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) available to employee 24/7 access to support services through the EAP or EFAP Peer support program available in the workplace Organization has implemented the requirements of the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Organization has an active wellness committee that provides ongoing information, education and support to employees about topics related to health and well-being Organization strategically builds manager and supervisor competencies around communication skills and emotional intelligence Other Please attach a detailed job description Supporting Employee 15

18 Part 3 Employer and Employee Additional Employer Additional Please add information to clarify additional expectations and prioritize the areas where you would like some suggestions that will allow you to support the employee s success. Additional job expectations or comments: List the areas where you would like suggestions from the healthcare professional to support a successful return to work. Please prioritize to indicate the top two or three items Employee Additional Additional job expectations not previously mentioned by employer: List the areas that you would like some assistance with to achieve a successful return to work. Please prioritize so that you indicate the top two or three items Supporting Employee

19 Part 4 Supporting Conversation This section is intended as a guide for discussions with the employee on return-to-work strategies. It helps support exploration of possibilities between the healthcare professional and the employee. It can, however, also be used by someone who the employee feels comfortable with, including a manager, human resources professional, occupational health professional or union representative. The following questions are offered to guide the discussion with the employee and are based on the premise that Part 1 Job Expectations have been completed and the question of return to work is the subject of the conversation. The ultimate goal is to contribute to a plan that supports the employee to do his or her job while maintaining well-being. Question: Response: 1. What will allow you to be successful at your job and still have energy at the end of the day? 2. What can you do to successfully manage your return to work and maintain your well-being? 3. What can your workplace/supervisor do to support a successful and sustainable return to work for you? 4. How can feedback be provided to you in a positive and constructive way? 5. How should future issues be managed in a way that is positive and healthy for you? Based on the conversation, please include any other potential concerns relating to job expectations and suggestions to guide the employee and the workplace towards a successful return-to-work experience. Name: Employee Initials: Supporting Employee 17

20 Supporting Employee A Tool to Plan Accommodations that Support at Work This resource is available for free download from M /14

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