Chronic Illness and Work: How You Can Support Your Employees

Chronic Illness and Work: How You Can Support Your Employees

Whether starting your own small business or continuing to manage your long-standing company, the most important thing to any employer is ensuring that all workers are healthy. When they’re in good physical and psychological condition, not only do you have a safe and functioning work floor that increases productivity, but you’ll hold onto your trained and skilled employees much longer.  

Learning how to cope with chronic illness and work is vital in keeping this effective workforce while nurturing your employees in the best way possible. At Group Enroll, our experienced team helps employers like you find optimal group health insurance coverage for all ailments. Below, we’ll delve into chronic illnesses in Canada and discuss how you can help workers manage them.

Is Chronic Illness Common in the Workplace?

According to a recent 2021 survey by Benefits Canada Healthcare, a shocking 59% of workers suffer from at least one form of chronic illness. Unfortunately, employers’ popular belief is that only 34% of employees, almost half as many, have physical ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic pain, or mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. 

In reality, the numbers are much higher. For instance, about 1.6 million Canadians alone have heart disease or suffer the aftermath of a stroke. One-sixth of the population has arthritis, and an average of 20% have a mental or psychological disorder that Health Canada labels as chronic.  

Sometimes, chronic conditions escape the employer’s notice, whether because of an informal HR department that doesn’t check on their workers’ absences or employees that minimize or are oblivious to their ailments. These persistent and sometimes progressive illnesses, unlike the cold or flu, won’t disappear in time but can be treatable with the appropriate measures. 

That’s why employers should step up in healthcare procedures and scour for the appropriate group health insurance. It’ll ensure that all workers maintain their employment status and continue to benefit the company.

What’s the Effect of Chronic Illness on Workers?

Chronic illnesses that remain unchecked cause strain and disaster in the workplace by forcing employees to work harder in spite of their ailments: costing the company profits and employees their wellness.

Displaced Energy

Unmanaged chronic illness and work don’t mesh well for numerous reasons, including displaced energy. 80% of employees claim to have a disabling condition like depression or anxiety that affects their energy level, causing withdrawals and what employers perceive as negative work habits.

Reduced Abilities

Other ailments like arthritis, heart disease, and nervous system disorders affect workers by placing physical limitations on their once-manageable daily tasks. These health issues diminish mobility, how much weight a worker can lift, or how strenuous a position they can handle, jeopardizing their employment status in many occupations.  

Reduced abilities lead to limited workplace performance, lowering productivity. For instance, arthritis, the most common cause of work disability in Canada, costs the Canadian economy more than $6.4 billion annually. The disease limits workers’ mobility and require more downtime to take care of injuries.

More Time Off With Scheduling Issues

Even those with a strong work ethic can lose worktime because of frequent medical appointments or procedures that take time away from work. For instance, a 2013 medical study in Quebec found that employees with Type 2 diabetes take 2-10 more days of sick leave than the average employee.  

Frequent absences from work contribute to lost productivity, averaging $122 billion in the yearly Canadian market. Ineffective scheduling also creates an energy conflict since employees with demanding treatment plans spread themselves thin between work and their personal agendas or needs.

What Causes Chronic Illness?

Many managers wonder how chronic illness and work have become an issue for their employees. While some ailments prove hereditary and most are incurable, taking caution and using preventative methods can often deter some of these illnesses from occurring in the first place.

Risk Behaviours

Reducing risk behaviours like smoking and drinking can enhance the quality of life.  

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, a leading cause of preventable cancer is smoke and tobacco inhalation. About 50% of cancer patients are victims of first or second-hand smoking. However, smoking also opens the door to lung disease, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, one of the top chronic ailments in Canada.  

Drinking also creates the same effect in high amounts, leading to high blood pressure and heart and liver disease. It contributes to numerous cancer types, including liver, colon, rectum, and breast cancer. Simply limiting one’s alcohol intake by drinking in moderation or only at social gatherings reduces chances of contracting chronic illnesses.  

However, not all harmful intake includes substance abuse. Undergoing unnecessary stress or incorrectly managing stress strains one’s physical body and drains their emotional state. Ailments of all sorts become evident, from chronic headaches and sleeping disorders to depression and anxiety. Reaching out for therapist discussions or doctor treatments can manage mental anguish before it becomes permanent.

Lifestyle Elements

Not all risk factors come from negative habits. Others originate from the lack of beneficial routines in a person’s daily life.  

We’re all aware of the level of unhealthiness that comes with processed foods and takeout. However, a diet heavy in such foods does more than lightly raise cholesterol or increase sugar intake. Regularly eating fast foods, even if not daily, promotes high blood pressure, strokes, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, among other chronic illnesses.  

Experts recommend a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins, fibres, minerals, and whole grains. While this may sound simple, only 40% of Canadians regularly consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. Becoming more aware of and altering a diet with a new menu can shave up to 7% of a person’s original body fat alone, which keeps chronic illnesses at bay.   

Aside from eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly improves bone and muscle strength, lowering the potential for arthritis and other joint or bone conditions. It also enhances brain health, which betters a person’s mental state and limits weight gain. Health Canada claims that obesity levels have surged since 1985 by over 200%, especially since only one-fifth of the population gets at least 2.5 hours of exercise weekly.  

Simply taking a brisk walk around the block or using the stairs at work can improves one’s overall health and well-being. Other ways to keep chronic illnesses and work-related strains at bay include: 

  • Getting seven hours of sleep or more per night for adults (and no less than eight hours for children)
  • Undergoing regular screenings for health illnesses, since catching them at early stages prevents receiving other, more dangerous ailments from developing or current conditions from worsening 
  • Becoming aware of any hereditary diseases in one’s family, which allows a person to take preventative measures before the first signs of the illness

How Can My Company Support Our Workers’ Health?

Whatever the cause of chronic illness, your job as the employer is to ensure that your workers have a safe and understanding space where no one judges them or treats them differently. Also, work to create an environment that allows workers with illnesses to continue to work to provide the best possible results. That may include switching their roles after sustaining an injury.  

The first step in doing so includes listening to each employee who comes to you to discuss their limitations and work requirements. Although you don’t have to make immediate changes, discuss available options. If you already have organizational policies, examine how they affect the workforce by regularly checking in on the physical, psychological, and financial standing of employees.  

However, not all workers are physically present at the workplace. Statistics show that more than 77% of the employees who work from home after receiving a diagnosis stay on top of their work, rarely missing their hours, unlike employees with chronic illnesses who struggle to show up to work each day. 

Allowing your workers, especially those with arthritis or chronic pain, to work remotely benefits their schedule and maintains your company’s productivity. Still, that doesn’t mean all chronic illness and work situations should lead to digital clock-ins.  

Other cases may only require figuring out a part-time or alternate schedule so workers can keep doctor’s appointments, take necessary breaks or medication, and eat or drink to stay energized. If necessary, provide the appropriate equipment to make their jobs easier, including adjustable armrests or footrests, cushioned seats, and audio or visual apps.

Going the Extra Mile

Sometimes, providing the basics like breaks and new equipment isn’t all an employer can do to ensure that those suffering from chronic illnesses do their best on the floor. Almost 85% of Canadians feel employers should support employees’ physical health, and nearly 90% believe mental or psychological assistance is necessary from them as well.  

While assistance comes in different forms, the best way to tackle chronic conditions in your company includes determining what major illnesses exist among your team. Also, implement prevention programs teaching risk factors, preventative measures, and ways to alleviate symptoms or lessen danger levels.  

Employee training revolving around diet and fitness and accompanying in-work health screenings will also contribute to keeping your workers safe while on the job.

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Your One Stop for the Safety of Hundreds

Finding the appropriate health insurance for yourself alone is overwhelming. What do you do when you need to provide health insurance to your entire staff? Our experienced team at Group Enroll, an insurance brokerage headquartered in Vaughan, ON, will scour thousands of top insurance companies for the best benefits at competitive rates.  

From group dental insurance to group disability insurance, we can reach out to 10 providers simultaneously, finding you what you need. For assistance on chronic illness and work, complete our quote form or email [email protected] for Group Enroll assistance today!

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