Workplace Wellness: Road Map To Disability Management

Workplace Wellness Return To WorkMany managers and team leaders, like yours, still don’t have the understanding or the resources to help employees after they have taken leave for depression, anxiety, addiction or other mental-health issues. Thousands of workers each year do not return to work and end up on permanent disability because of this lack of understanding.

Previously, stigma and a lack of knowledge, prevented many workplace health and safety  programs from including mental-health issues. More than a decade ago, the Global Business and Economic Roundtable Roadmap to Disability Management, presented a wide range of recommendations for detecting mental illness, and reducing the workplace factors that could cause or contribute to it. It placed more responsibility on employers in helping mentally disabled employees return to work.



Among their key recommendations, were that:

  • Employers have to take responsibility for reducing job stress that can double the risk of worker disability associated with depression, and should make detection and treatment programs a priority.
  • Employers and supervisors must be held responsible for helping employees who take mental-health leaves return to full-time work.
  • Employees should be welcomed back unequivocally, without immediate reference to any performance or behaviour issues that occurred in the pre-disability period.
  • Return should be a gradual process. Managers must allow for flexibility in scheduling and expectations to let employees move back to full responsibilities at their own pace.
  • Job stress and home stress are linked, and family, co-workers and friends should be involved in the return-to-work process.


However, even after a decade, many managers and organizations are still inexperienced and untrained in handling mental health issues.

So, what can you do as the employer?

TRAIN your team leaders so that they know what to look for, how to ensure a psychologically health and safe workplace and how to facilitate a return-to-work.

Tips on easing the return

Consult with the employee to see if any of these tips may help ease the strain and stress of returning to the workplace:

  • Offer flexible or part-time scheduling and self-paced workloads
  • Try to provide a work setting near a source of natural light and with low noise levels
  • Use written job instructions if the employee is feeling confused
  • Make daily “to do” lists and check items off as they are completed
  • Both manager and employee should remind each other of important deadlines
  • Agree to open communication and perhaps discreet hand signals to indicate unwelcome stress is building up
  • Discuss whether some times of day are better or more stressful for the employee
  • Don’t make large demands on Mondays, which can often be hectic in many workplaces
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals
  • Allow for frequent breaks
  • Look for opportunities to provide positive feedback
  • Isolation deepens depression. Make sure the employee is treated as a member of the team and not excluded from business meetings, social events or activities relevant to the job
  • Do not be overly protective



Does your company do a good job of helping employees return to work?
Is there a stigma around mental health leave in your company?
Do you know how to refer someone who may be having mental health issues?

Leave us your comments!


If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!


Additional Postings:

Workplace Wellness: Psychologically Health Workplaces

Critical Illness – Roll Of The Dice

Psychosocial Risk Factors

Mental Health In The Small Business Workplace

Employee Assistance Programs

Lessening The Anguish of Depression Through Supportive Workplace Conversations

Mental Illness Awareness Week – October

Workplace Absenteeism

Employee Health and Barriers To Wellness

Support In The Workplace



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Written by Beverly Beuermann-King

Building Resiliency Through Stress and Wellness Strategies. Stress and resiliency strategist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP, translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and more practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line stress and resiliency articles, books, e-briefs and media interviews.

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