As we transition back to work, we have no idea what our “new normal” is going to look like. But one thing is sure and that is we need to take extra care for the most at-risk employees. These are 10 transitional work accommodations specific to employees with Autoimmune Disease and the immune-compromised. Both employers and employees will benefit from understanding these accommodations as we make the transition to our new normal in the workplace.
This article is not to replace the guidelines of the CDC, EEOC, and other authorities. It is designed to bring awareness for those employees who are returning to work and are at most risk because they are immunocompromised.
While this article is written primarily for HR Professionals, managers, and employees, it will also benefit those employees who have an Autoimmune Disease.
Why Are Individuals with Autoimmune Disease At Risk?
In layman’s terms, an Autoimmune Disease attacks the body’s own cells. Individuals who have an Autoimmune Disease have a compromised immune system. Not only is it easier to get infected, but if they do get sick, the symptoms are often more severe and it typically takes longer to get better. There is also a greater risk of hospitalization.
In addition, stress causes inflammation which increases flare-ups and also weakens the immune system.
As we transition back to work, the stress increases and this population of individuals is SCARED. TO. DEATH.
There are so many different work environments and industries; these are 10 transitional accommodations for you to consider and apply as needed to your own work environment and situation.
No one is going to know what this is going to look like moving forward.
I’m not even mentioning the basics like providing a clean and healthy work environment, social distancing, masks, etc. It goes without saying that one of your #1 priorities is to keep ALL employees safe. That’s a given.
Why Transitional Work Accommodations?
I know you’re familiar with reasonable accommodations, and you can read more about reasonable accommodations specific to employees with Autoimmune Disease.
So why transitional reasonable accommodations? What’s the difference?
Reasonable accommodations are more formal, permanent, and typically require some type of medical documentation. Transitional accommodations are temporary accommodations to help us through this current transition back to work. They may be short-term, but can also become long-term if the conditions precipitate it. Employees with Autoimmune Disease may not have all of the formal paperwork in place to ask for reasonable accommodations, and they may not have the opportunity to do so given the current circumstances.
But it does behoove the employers to protect their most vulnerable employees, and employees who are most at-risk should speak up and ask for the temporary accommodations to help keep them safe.
This list is to help you be creative and provide extra attention to your immune-compromised employees. Again, they may be short term or long term. There are too many unknowns out there and flexibility is key.
10 Transitional Work Accommodations
1. GOLD STAR – Continue to allow immune-compromised employees to work from home as long as possible.
2. When bringing employees back, allow for a phased approach with your most at-risk employees returning to the worksite last.
2. As these employees transition back, provide flexible hours and shifts to minimize exposure.
3. Provide alternate (even temporary) assignments that are not public-facing and minimize exposure to other employees.
4. Minimize meeting attendance.
5. Continue to use video-conferencing instead of travel.
6. Even in the workplace, encourage communication via email, phone, or video conference instead of face-to-face.
7. Provide alternate (even temporary) workspaces away from other employees.
8. Provide parking spaces to minimize public transportation.
9. Don’t forget about the employees who are spouses of immune-compromised individuals.
10. Most importantly… Listen. Communicate. Be flexible. Practice empathy.
There are so many unknowns right now. No one can predict what the workplace of the future is going to look like. But with a little creativity and a lot of understanding, you are well on your way to providing a safe workplace for your most vulnerable employees.
Are you Inspired?
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