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  REFERRALS

We've just completed our first Breakfast Series entitled 4 Pillars of Absence Management, Creating a Culture of Accommodation. Each of the 4 sessions we presented were well received and viewed as "good information" and "something to think about".

While the idea of managing absences is not new, I'm asking employers to think differently about how it's done and why. 

In creating a Culture of Accommodation an employer creates an environment that provides safety for it's employees. In this way employee's will have clear standards and expectations and ultimately be able to focus more on productivity. I recently attended the World Business Forum where I heard Mr. Simon Sinek speak, referencing his latest book, "Why Leaders Eat Last" where he uses the analogy of the herd, where the leader is often last to eat because he is focused on protecting the herd while they eat. By providing safety in this way (s)he is fed by the herd. Employers, providing safety and comfort to their staff, will also be fed, with productive employees, which translates to a positive and increasing bottom line.

The Four Pillars are Policies, Procedures and Prevention; Benefits; Rehabilitation; Return to Work. The first pillar provides the basic foundation of the culture, by spelling out the expect ions, processes and how's and why's of the relationship between employer and employee. Strong policies provide comfort and safety while eliminating ambiguity. The second pillar, benefits, provides a means of taking care of employees health care needs. In our Canadian health care system employers are becoming increasingly responsible for society's health via benefits. Benefits need to be structured to meet the needs of an ever changing workforce, boomers vs millennials for example.

Employers need to become more involved in the Rehab process, not simply financially through benefits or subsidizing other care, but by being actively involved. In particular communication with Health Care Providers and the employee are critical to ensuring and assisting with an expeditious return to work.

Lastly, employers must be leaders in managing the return to work process, if not actively with a designated return to work coordinator, then by engaging third party professionals for this purpose. If they're not actively involved it becomes too easy for employees to slip through the cracks or hide and delay on their own. The earliest possible return to work suggests that the employer must provide for accommodation and modified duties almost immediately upon learning of an absence. In this way the employer offers to accept the limitations of the employee and assist them in accessing resources to manage the recovery and rehabilitation, be it a physical or mental disability. We want the employee at work because we value them and work is a necessary part of one's rehab and overall positive state of well being, according to the World Health Organization's defining of well-being. Employees are not fond of having their income reduced either, which is the case when they are not able to work to full capacity. Partnering to return to full income and health creates a strong bond between the two parties.

The active process in all phases sends a clear message to employees. We want you at work and we're willing to partner with you to ensure your health, physical, mental and financial, are taken care. This creates a sense of safety and ultimately a culture of accommodation.

I am more than open to debate and discuss this, feel free to comment or contact. I like being a disruptive force.

Don Smith
President, Vital Life
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