The importance of an Occupational Health Assessment
We’ve all heard about reducing the stigma around mental health — it is, after all, talked about widely on twitter, instagram, and facebook. Chances are that you’ve read an article about mental health in the newspaper this morning, over a cup of tea.
It’s all well and good to show support for mental health online, but the reality is, mental illness is not an abstract concept. It affects real people, who have real jobs, and wish to lead long, fulfilling lives. There are likely people in your workplace who cope with mental illnesses without saying so. Some colleagues may suffer, due to a lack of accommodation for their situation, but will not risk their employability by speaking up.
This is understandable — after all, if one can manage to ‘pass’ without disclosing their mental illness, they will be inclined to do so. India’s economy is a competitive one, and our workforce values efficiency over all else. This is a mindset that has been drilled into us from childhood, and is one of the reasons our nation is among world-superpowers
However, picture this. Your colleague comes to work one day in a wheelchair. There are no wheelchair accommodations at you workplace, and your colleague does not wish to bring the issue up, for fear of being dismissed. Does this not sound ridiculous? A perfectly fine worker, having to struggle down stairways everyday, when a wheelchair ramp could be easily installed.
This is, of course, an analogy. It does not matter whether accommodations would have been made willingly — your colleague’s fear that bringing up their needs would risk their employability is the issue.
People with mental illnesses face these issues in the workplace every day. While a broken leg or a physical injury is easily justified, the same cannot be said for anxiety, OCD, or Bipolar Disorder. The lines of communication between employer and employee are muddled, and can result in anger or misunderstandings.
An Occupational Health Assessment (OHA) is a method that Recovery Hub uses to open lines of communication between both parties. Organisations can be made aware of mental illnesses, and the adaptations that can be made to allow an employee to work efficiently.
Not only does an OHA help individual employees with their mental illnesses, it provides a credible basis for organisations to use when hiring workers in the future. If an organisation has experience accommodating for, say, OCD or Bipolar Disorder, it reduces job insecurity for other employees with the same requirements. An OHA clears the air between both parties, and minimises any worries or stigma an organisation may face when accommodating a worker.
Mental illness, if ignored in the workplace, often leads to increased sickness absence, a high staff turnover, as well as increased accidents due to human error. [Dewa, Carolyn S.] This is not actually due to the individual’s capabilities, rather, it is the consequence of a lack of accommodations made for their situation.
Looking at a study done by C. McDowell in 2015, about workplace accommodations for mental illnesses, it was found that, “The most commonly reported work-related accommodations were flexible scheduling and modified job descriptions […] The least common type of accommodation was physical modification to the workplace.”
Simply put, using our previous wheelchair analogy: it is very unlikely that an automated lift is required by someone who cannot use the stairs. Most of the time, all that is required is a ramp.