The things that you can do to successfully support veterans who are wounded, injured or sick in the workplace are the same things that you can be doing to support all of your staff.
Reasonable adjustments describe the support that employers put in place to ensure that employees with disabilities are not disadvantaged in the workplace. They may include the removal of physical barriers, changes to the way work is structured, or additional practical or emotional support. Wounded, injured or sick veterans tell us that often the most important reasonable adjustment an employer could make for them is to give them a chance – to recognise that, given the right support, they can grow into the role and become a very valuable and loyal employee.
Disabilities can be both obvious disabilities, such as limb injuries or spinal cord injuries, or they can be non-obvious injuries, such as mental health problems (including post-traumatic stress) or brain injuries. The kind of adjustments that you might offer to a veteran who is wounded, injured, sick, or is experiencing mental health problems, are the same as you would offer any other employee who is experiencing problems. Workplace adjustments can be temporary (to help someone manage a difficult patch) or permanent. Very few of them will cost you any money, the most that they will require is a bit of creative thinking and a willingness to be flexible. Here are some examples:
The employers that we work with tell us that the majority of veterans that they employ take less time off work sick than their general workforce, but some people who are experiencing mental or physical health problems might need to take some additional time off. This might be to receive counselling or treatment, or it might be a way for them to manage when they are feeling particularly low. Being flexible and understanding why someone is asking for time off is a great way to support all your staff. When you discuss reasonable adjustments with a member of staff, you may find the following pointers useful:
Good communication is key to any successful employer/employee relationship, and when supporting wounded, injured or sick veterans in the workplace, it is even more important. Be clear and direct in your communication and make sure that your employee knows what it is that you want them to achieve. Remember to give lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement. We all like to know when we are doing well. Identifying areas where an individual can improve is also important. When giving feedback to an individual we recommend that you:
And remember, good communication involves listening as well as talking.
Talk about wellbeing
We are all different. Some of us feel more comfortable talking about ourselves than others. But the earlier you can pick up a problem the better. Warning signs that your employee might be having problems include:
Ensuring that your staff have regular work planning sessions, and informal chats about their progress helps to create an environment where it becomes easier to broach the subject of wellbeing. Use open questions to give your employee the opportunity to express any concerns. For example:
It is important for all of us to be aware of the early signs that might indicate an individual is experiencing mental distress. Have a look at the list and see which symptoms are relevant to you. You can also use this list to become more aware when your staff might be experiencing problems, but remember, just because they are showing these symptoms, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are experiencing mental illness. Possible symptoms of mental distress:
If you are concerned about the behaviour of a member of your staff encourage them to speak to their GP or a mental health professional, or if you have access to an occupational health service you may wish to suggest that your member of staff contacts them.
Create a Wellbeing Plan
A wellbeing plan is designed to help people recognise the things that keep them both physically and mentally well, and to help them recognise the early warning signs that they may be becoming unwell. An example of a Wellbeing Plan can be downloaded here.
Fit for Work (www.fitforwork.org)
Provides free, work-related health advice and referral to occupational health professionals for employees who have been or are likely to be off work sick for four weeks or more.
Mindful Employer (www.mindfulemployer.net)
Provides businesses and organisations with easy access to information and support for staff who experience stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health condition.