Any hiring manager of a company wants to build the ideal team to meet the goals and mission of the organization. So what if a potential employee mentions during an interview that he or she has a chronic illness? At the same time, what if this person has just the right skillset to get the job done?
Working with employees who live with a chronic illness does not have to pose an insurmountable obstacle. In fact, if a worker with a chronic illness possesses all of the qualities that a supervisor is looking for and contributes greatly to the team, then this situation can turn out to be a win-win for everyone. All it takes is a bit of creativity and flexibility to navigate this scenario—not to mention a willingness to learn something new.
Dispelling the Myth
Before one can think of hiring an employee who lives with a chronic illness, getting well-informed on the matter (if not the specific condition itself) is key to making the situation work out for everyone.
At times, some individuals see a person who suffers from a chronic illness who appears to be “ok” and “able-bodied.” However, the symptoms are not always obvious, especially if that person is doing his or her best to get through the day. Nonetheless, that does not diminish one’s ability to work, and one thing that employers would need to keep in mind is that the person with the chronic condition already knows how to cope with symptoms and how to work around them.
Also, some people have the misconception that a person with a chronic condition chooses not to work but rather, rely on disability or some other assistance. This could not be farther from the truth. Just like anyone else, this person wants to contribute to his or her community and has goals and dreams that he or she would love to achieve. By recognizing that nobody is defined by a diagnosis and realizing that everyone has the ability to contribute, an employer can benefit a company by taking on a worker whose talents fit in well with their mission, while giving that person a chance to realize his or her goals and endeavors. Again, this is the most favorable scenario that would be advantageous to all involved.
So there are some steps that hiring managers can follow in order to facilitate this type of situation.
The best source of information is, of course, the person who’s dealing with the chronic condition. During the interview, rather than sit mutely trying to figure out the whole situation in the course of two seconds, the interviewer should ask questions about any possible accommodations that might be needed. Better yet, he or she should listen as the candidate tells about daily regimens and what would work out best in getting tasks completed. Learning more about what a workday would look like while factoring in a chronic condition might strike up even more questions, but at least the conversation would continue, and several options can be brought up and pondered. Moreover, by listening with an open mind and encouraging two-way communication, a hiring manager increases comfort level for everyone involved. That would be the ideal climate for any high-performing organization.
Creating a Truly Cooperative Environment
Nonetheless, having the conversation and increasing awareness isn’t the only step. Implementing policies and programs that facilitate a healthy work environment benefits everyone and saves money in many different ways. Some key factors that have prompted a need for change include the following:
- Increasing globalization
- More competition for qualified employees
- Availability of technology
Likewise the culture of cooperation takes on many forms such as:
- Work-Life programs
- Wellness programs
- Flex Schedule and Arrangements
- Job sharing
- Employee Assistance Programs
And considering the potential for combining any of the aforementioned programs, there are so many more routes a company can take in regard to retaining employees. Furthermore, incorporating a company’s goals and mission with the needs of employees will help greatly with productivity not to mention loyalty and motivation.
So it’s worth looking at some of these options more in depth. Flex scheduling and arrangements for instance, involve exactly what the name denotes—flexibility in relation to when the “work day” takes place. In other words, some employee might work a schedule, either part time or full time, to where they have an evening shift as opposed to the traditional “9 to 5.” Or perhaps, tasks are completed in the early morning or afternoon hours in a part time situation. Having this flexibility is very effective for those who deal with chronic conditions and/or have to undergo treatment or therapy.
Likewise, job sharing affords a supervisor the flexibility of assigning parts of a project to different staff members according to their talents and capabilities. This ensures that all employees have a role in the completed project while promoting open communication.
Another manner in which a company can encourage cooperation is by complying with the ADA guidelines. This can entail a total revamping of the workplace to guarantee that all employees are successful and productive. This can come in the forms of training, having a case manager or job coach on site. Also, training and educational opportunities can be included as well as providing technical assistance both onsite and in the situation of working remotely.
In addition to these alternatives, employers can include physical accommodations like frequent breaks at necessary intervals, and adaptation in procedures and of course, a change in scheduling. Other changes can be made to the infrastructure, such as the installation of ramps or elevators, increased lighting, and any applicable technology that helps a worker to get the job done.
Delegating Efficiently and Effectively
This is where the “buddy system” might come into play. Pairing up the more experienced employees with those who are suffering from a chronic condition can keep up the pace of a project or everyday operations. The mentor can catch the other person up in the event some work days or meetings were missed. Since this situation could be quite similar to a job sharing or flex schedule situation, one employee can get a task started while the other brings it to completion. Or in the case of a part time shift, one worker can relieve the other whose shift is ending and thus, create a better transition.
Another aspect that an employer or supervisor can take a notice of is where each person’s talents and expertise lie and to use that information for the efficient delegating of tasks. If various duties are assigned accordingly, then a worker who has a chronic illness will, more than likely, be able to complete a task that falls right into his or her forte.
Another alternative that is becoming more popular in a more globalized economy is telecommuting, and technological advancements make it easier in today’s job market than ever before. With platforms, such as Skype, Go to Meeting, Face Time and Google Hangouts, an employee can attend meetings and receive work orders from home. Moreover, with so many options available for web design, a similar tool for communication can also be integrated in to the company’s site. While some tasks still have to completed onsite, there are many different ways to assign tasks that can be completed remotely. This also saves time and money which works to the advantage of both parties.
Therefore, physical limitations do not have to pose an obstacle when the right candidate possesses all of the skills needed for a job position. Open communication, working with expert job coaches or trainers who are familiar with this situation, and incorporating different alternatives for delegating and completing the work can all serve the purpose of making a company a truly resourceful organization.