Diabetes in The Workplace: 7 Ways to Help Your Employees
Article revised on 9 June 2017
Diabetes is a growing health problem. The number of Canadians living with diabetes has more than doubled since 2000 to over three million today.
Consequently, direct healthcare costs are also increasing alarmingly ($3 billion in 2015) and are projected to grow by more than 40% by 2020. These high costs will undoubtedly place a severe financial burden on most Canadian employers.
The promotion of early screening and effective management of the disease has positive repercussions on employers, because employees with type 2 diabetes who are in control of their blood sugar are more productive and off work less often.
As an employer, you can play a role in promoting good management of diabetes. How? By adapting the workplace and modifying your internal policies to make life easier for diabetic employees.
Here are a few suggestions.
- Conduct screening Hold workplace screening clinics or at least encourage your employees to see their doctor annually. An estimated one in five Canadians over the age of 20 is prediabetic (more at risk of developing the disease in the future). Screening programs allow participants to be informed and take the necessary action to deal with their condition.
- A worthwhile break Getting blood work done, taking medication and eating to manage symptoms may not always match up with an employee’s normal break time. Just remember that it’s not a whim and that it is often possible to accommodate employees afflicted with this condition.
- Healthy food: always on hand A healthy diet is essential in effectively managing diabetes, and diabetics must always have access to food. Offering nutritious choices at the cafeteria and in vending machines will benefit your entire team. You can make literature available to employees who bring their own lunch, to help them adopt a well-balanced diet.
- A quick jab Diabetics sometimes need to use small needles to measure their blood sugar or inject insulin. Make sure that employees with diabetes can do what they need to do inconspicuously, without judgment. For example, you can install containers in washrooms that are designed to safely dispose of used needles.
- When not feeling well…Identify or provide access to a calm and peaceful area equipped with a phone where employees can go (and, ideally, lie down) when they are not feeling well or when they just need to wait for their blood sugar level to return to normal.
- Respect each person’s rights A person’s medical condition is confidential information. In general, diabetics do not have to disclose this information to their colleagues if they do not wish to do so. However, if the information is known, the condition must never be used in a discriminatory way. Prepare an internal policy and provide information on this condition to educate other employees and eliminate the stigma associated with it.
- Prevention through the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits The adoption of healthy lifestyle habits (eating healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight) could stop diabetes in its tracks and greatly improve the health of diabetics. Just 30 minutes of physical activity per day could reduce the risks of developing type 2 diabetes by 40%. Encourage your employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to eat smart.
 Testa MA, Simonson DC. Health economic benefits and quality of life during improved glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, controlled, double-blind trial. JAMA. 1998; 280 (17):1490-1496. doi:10.1001/jama.280.17.1490.
 International Diabetes Federation
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