Managing Diabetes in the Workplace

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Keep your employees healthy, happy, and productive by taking a proactive approach to combating diabetes.  Diabetes has increased in prevalence and is now a common chronic-diseases managed in many households across the country as well as in the workplace. Employees managing diabetes can have high rates of absenteeism and insurance claims if improperly cared for- many times there are due to improper insulin use, poor diet and exercise efforts, or lack of flexibility at work.

Diabetes affects many Americans- in fact 30.3 million were diagnosed based on statistics from 2015.  Americans rely on workplace benefits to help with healthcare costs, but these can average to more than $10,000 per capita for those with diabetes in the workforce compared to those who don’t. Furthermore, the American Diabetes Association approximates that poor disease management can cost $69 billion in lost workforce productivity.

In the spirit of Diabetes Awareness Month, here are five things you can do manage diabetes in the workplace.

  1.  Manager Training-Managers are on the front-line when it comes to employee wellbeing and support. Empower your managers with training and empathy so they can better understand how foster a work environment that their reportee will thrive in.
  2. Allow for Flexibility-Allow for employees to have the flexibility to take more breaks in the day to check blood-glucose levels or self-administer insulin. This will not only resolve stress around managing the condition for employees, but ensure they will be able to be successful during work hours.
  3. Partner with a Diabetes Management Service- Managing diabetes alone can be challenging.Finding a great digital or telehealth partner can not only help employees manage their conditions from wherever they are, these services can also assist with weight management and reductions of insulin use, which in turn can decrease insurance claims and minimize productivity disruption.
  4. Foster a Healthier Work Environment-Supplying food in the office? Consider the options. If providing snacks and drinks high in sugar a swap for healthier alternatives should be evaluated. High sugar intake can not only contribute to the development of diabetes, but could be too tempting for those needing to watching their sugar intake.  Additionally, encouraging exercise, whether with gym/fitness discounts or lunchtime walking groups can also help those managing their diabetes.
  5. Accommodate Workspace Needs-Physical limitations can also emerge when an individual is living with diabetes. By accommodating workspace needs, your employee will feel valued as well as ensuring you are complying with EEOC and ADA regulations. A few ways to be more accommodating include providing an area to store medications/food, reconfigure a desk set-up to allow for extra support of extremities, or provide better lighting/glare protection to prevent eye strain.

    Addressing diabetes in the workplace can be challenging. Take small steps to focus on prevention and management, and a more inclusive environment can be created that not only fosters good health, but improves work quality.

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