According to the CDC’s most recent report on diabetes, 13% of U.S. adults are living with diabetes, and more than two million new cases are diagnosed each year. Given the prevalence of this disease and its inclusion as a federally-recognized disability, you may be concerned about how it affects your own employees.
Diabetes is a disease characterized by elevated blood glucose or sugar levels due to the body’s inability to produce or use insulin — a hormone that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells to absorb glucose. Some people can manage their diabetes through moderate changes to diet and exercise, while others need to use medication and insulin injections to treat symptoms. Diabetes greatly disrupts endocrine function, and therefore those who have been diagnosed with diabetes are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a serious distinction for every employer.
How can you best accommodate and support those who are managing diabetes at work? Feel confident in your ability to encourage the health and well-being of your employees by taking steps to understand the impact of diabetes and implementing a few workplace tips.
Providing assistance to your employees ensures that, as a business, you are operating within the law while creating a positive, inclusive workplace. In addition to enabling the success and wellness of your employees, providing a supportive environment can reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. The following six tips can help employers help their employees manage diabetes at work:
Depending on the severity, some people with diabetes require insulin injections to keep their glucose levels stable. Though every person may have slightly different needs for managing their diabetes at work, providing a private, discreet space for those that need insulin on a daily basis, and including a proper disposal receptacle for needles in this space, is a good idea.
Employees should feel comfortable taking the time out of their working hours to address their health needs, so ensure that you are flexible with — and supportive of — the times that your employees need to step away. It may also be helpful to offer an insulin storage location for employees if feasible.
Knowledge is power and diabetes education can benefit all of your employees, not just those living with the disease. Consider providing diabetes awareness training to your entire workforce as everyone likely has a personal connection to someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in America. Type 2 diabetes is preventable and the estimated 88 million cases of prediabetes in the U.S. can be reversed through lifestyle adjustments. Small changes in weight, diet, and exercise can have a huge impact on the likelihood of developing diabetes. Educating employees on eating healthy, reducing stress, and getting proper exercise is a great way to lead prevention efforts.
The easiest and most cost-effective foods to provide the office are not likely to be the healthiest. Consider offering fruit and yogurt at the next morning meeting to balance out your donut spread. Provide a healthy lunch one day out of the week. Work with your vending machine provider to select healthier options for the next restock.
Many people in the workforce eat out of convenience, so support your employees by making some of those convenience foods healthy. To accompany other education measures, you could offer healthy cooking classes or training on how to read food labels to avoid foods with problematic ingredients.
The CDC has established a database of community-based organizations (CBOs) that assist people with diabetes, people with prediabetes, and families of those with diabetes. CBOs may comprise health workers or faith-based groups and can provide prevention and self-management support. If there’s no such group in your area, online support may be a good option.
As an employer, you can share this resource with employees in need, helping them to connect with an organization that provides the assistance they need.
Choosing the best healthcare options for your employees can be stressful, but with the signing of the ADA, most healthcare providers will be appropriately accommodating of the needs of people with diabetes. In addition to the benefits that your employees will receive through healthcare, you can provide flexibility in terms of scheduling. Your employees with diabetes may need more time away, even for short medical appointments.
Your employees managing diabetes at work may also require more frequent breaks, including time for strategic snacking to monitor and balance blood sugar levels. Most importantly, you need to be open and communicative with your employees about schedule preferences to create a plan that’ll work for everyone.
Workplace wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular as much of the workforce, especially younger generations, are voicing a desire for all health aspects to be taken into consideration by their employers.
Wellness programs don’t benefit employees alone. A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce, and fewer sick, exhausted employees translate to better outcomes for businesses in general.
A few components of a workplace wellness program might include:
Wellness programs will look different depending on the business. Considering the needs of your employees, especially when gearing a program towards a certain group, such as employees with diabetes, is essential.
With the many ideas and suggestions on how employers can help diabetes management and prevention, you may need assistance in creating an action plan.
MyLifeWell for Business can help you provide a customized health and wellness program for your team. MyLifeWell can provide your team with a variety of health and fitness needs:
Help your employees manage and even prevent future health concerns, including diabetes. To see what MyLifeWell would look like in your business, book a demo today.