HR Insights 5 min

How to Support Staff Who are Experiencing a Health Concern

February 12, 2020

Millions of Americans suffer from a chronic illness or health concern, and that number continues to rise amid this pandemic. So, supporting staff members who are experiencing a health concern should be a top priority in the workplace.

Effectively supporting your staff members with health issues builds the company’s reputation around care and comfort for its employees and attracts positive, productive workers from all walks of life to your workforce.

This article will help HR professionals analyze the need for an efficient support system and dive into specific ways to adequately support staff while they’re at work as well as outside of the workplace.

Ways to Support Staff While They’re at Work

Even with continued medical excellence, advanced technology, expanded treatment options, and overwhelming support, many of your current and future staff members will experience a health concern or a chronic or mental illness.

The current economic climate insists people with health conditions still find ways to make a living and take care of themselves and their families. HR professionals play huge roles in making sure staff feels supported while at work.

Consider the following initiatives to help support your staff while they’re at work:

Take it upon yourself to do in-depth research on health concerns

One of the most important things you can do before constructing and implementing support initiatives is to research common and/or top health concerns and what their symptoms are. By doing this, you can craft direct support elements for specific symptoms that arise.

For example, one of the top health concerns is Bipolar Depression. Understanding that isolation is a main symptom of this health issue will help you craft a support initiative built around inclusivity to ensure staff suffering from this health concern feel included in all activities.

Hire empathetic, relationship-centered leaders

Hiring the right leaders to support staff members on all levels of the company is the least discussed strategy to effectively support staff who are experiencing a health concern. Yet it can be the most significant.

The right leader is someone who carries the perfect mix of technical business ability and interpersonal artistry.

This looks like:

  • Effortlessly creating relationships with staff that encourage trust, openness, and individualism.
  • Understanding the technical language, strategies, and analysis of business.
  • Knowing how to connect with employees on a personal level.

Recruit for leaders with empathy, understanding, listening, and nurturing to be most effective with staff members experiencing a health concern.

Hire someone effectively managing a health concern to a leadership position

If you want employee retention, increased productivity, and effective business operations, hiring someone in a leadership position who is also managing a health concern could be a great idea.

Representation across all industries and positions matters. It inspires more people with that similarity to forge a way in every industry and continue with the overall mission to create all-inclusive, fully supported workplaces.

Learn the communication techniques for chronic illness and how to converse with workers in a supportive way

Effective communication skills are important for building a foundational relationship with an employee or potential employee.

These skills include:

Improving your communication techniques to support staff who are experiencing a health concern is especially important because you’re going to be hiring them whether you know it or not. A staggering amount of people do not disclose their health concern, chronic, or mental illness to their employer or anyone for that matter.

Have a health day or week to provide different health-related activities for staff to participate in

According to the American Action Forum, approximately 133 million Americans suffered from at least one chronic disease, as of 2020. Thus, the need for workplaces with initiatives that put the health and safety of their staff first is in high-demand.

A health day or week encourages staff to be open with the state of their health and at the very least starts the conversation that leads to adequate support for their health concerns.

Work with managers and other businesses leaders to connect them with employees

Company leaders should partner with staff members to truly improve how those staff members are assisted and encouraged throughout their health journey and the quality of care offered to those in need.

When staff doesn’t feel supported by their managers, it results in a low retention rate, an even lower productivity rate, and severely affects business operations. Avoid this by being the link between your organization’s management and its employees.

Create personalized job functions/job descriptions and recruit accordingly

When hiring a person experiencing a health concern, consider creating a personalized job description. Have an open discussion with the potential employee about ways to assist them with the job functions.

Losing good employees because you didn’t take the time to build a good foundation for them is a price you don’t want to pay. Have accommodations set up already and a support person for the role to help staff members feel welcome.

Ways to Support Staff While They’re Outside the Workplace

Be intentional about normalizing health concerns in your workplace AND outside of the workplace. The best way to do this is by implementing intentional initiatives that support your staff as they experience and cope with their health concern.

By providing a supportive environment for your staff that includes a system dedicated to supporting them outside of work as well, you’re building an inclusive, supportive workplace reputation that leads to retention, productivity, and profitable business operations.

Support your staff members when they aren’t at work by providing the following resources they can use outside of work or in case they can’t physically be at work:

Create a support group within the company that can be accessed outside of work

Implementing a support group is important because the number of people experiencing a health concern is only growing.

Creating a support group within the company that’s led by a health professional could be a successful source of support and comfort for your staff. Support groups make it so your staff doesn’t have to face health concerns alone.

Implement flexible schedules that include working from home and offer this as a benefit when recruiting

Not having to fight the morning and evening commutes is a huge benefit to the mental and physical health of your staff. Even if it is a hybrid schedule of working from home and at the office, flexible schedules such as these are essential to the type of support you’re trying to offer your staff members who are experiencing a health concern.

If you can help your staff set up an effective home workspace with the essential technology and tools necessary to perform the job functions, allow them a choice of flexible schedules.

Allow staff to call out with no penalty

Each person’s experience with their health issue will be different. Although staff may experience similar symptoms, understanding the distinction between experience and symptoms furthers your ability to support your staff.

If you’re able to, allow these staff members to call out with no penalty, spoken or unspoken.

Create an environment where staff members are encouraged to use sick days. And when they do, follow up with them so they know their resources to support them emotionally and financially.

Provide resources for those caring for family members with a health concern

Caring for someone with a health concern without proper support can severely affect your staff’s physical and mental well-being, focus, and productivity too.

Be knowledgeable of how your staff could be experiencing this circumstance as well and how it could manifest physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll be fully equipped to create a strategy consisting of the best action-steps to support your company staff in this circumstance.

Provide adequate health insurance, financial relief, and a growing resource list with specific, trusted points of contact

People are no longer settling for jobs that don’t make their mental and physical health a priority. More and more potential workers will be requiring their employers to provide integral support for their health concerns before they become a part of any staff.

Accommodating the needs of staff members with a health concern through adequate health insurance, short- term and long-term disability options, and other actionable resources costs you far less than constantly having to replace workers or battle loss of productivity.


The bottom line is: the amount of staff experiencing a health concern is increasing and companies need to provide adequate support for them. So it’s important to provide a workplace that’s empathetic and supportive of health issues.

Instead of shying away from providing an accommodating workplace, lean into creating supportive systems, actionable resources, and leadership support.

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