Supervision / management support

Workbridge is the largest New Zealand-owned employment service for people with a disability or health condition.

Do not make assumptions about how a job will impact on someone. Arrange a meeting with a new employee with a disability to discuss how you can make it easier for them to do their job. What works for one person may not work for another person with the same condition.

Some things to consider discussing with new employees:

  • A person with diabetes may need a private place to inject insulin, a place to store their insulin, or more frequent shorter breaks in order to eat or drink sugary items to keep their glucose levels steady. If extended travel or long periods of work with few breaks are required, discuss with them how they will manage their condition and look at ways of ensuring they always have access to the correct food and an opportunity to rest.
  • People with dyslexia may need accommodations to help them with writing, verbal communication and time and work planning.
  • For people with epilepsy, some of the issues to consider are: frequency and duration of seizures, if they occur at all; triggers and warning signs of seizures; usual recovery time and strategies for managing the seizure.

Provide opportunities for regular reviews with employees to discuss their performance and review accommodations. This will help people to feel comfortable telling you about changes in their condition.

  • Give regular feedback that includes positive experiences as well as advice on how to do things differently.
  • Offer help with prioritising workload and where possible allow flexibility in working times and rest breaks. Sometimes reallocating non-core tasks to other team members can be helpful.
  • Provide encouraging feedback. Where reasonable accept inconsistencies in mood and behaviour from people whose mental health issues or intellectual disabilities affect the way they act at work.
  • Encourage an employee with a fluctuating condition to discuss with you any changes to their condition and reassure them that you are committed to working with them to remain in work for as long as it is working for both parties.
  • Some people with learning disabilities may not be as productive as other employees. When undertaking a performance review consider their overall contribution to the company, including to diversity and morale, and ensure you have made accommodations. Examine whether they are eligible for a productivity allowance from the Job Support Fund.
  • Be aware that disabled people can be at risk of harassment in the workplace. Ensure that harassment policies are in place, clearly communicated and followed.
  • Stress management is key to managing mental health at work. Positive workplace pressure to meet deadlines and produce quality work should not be allowed to tip over into negative and destructive stress. Carry out stress risk assessments or a ‘stress audit’ on a regular basis. Everyone’s risk to stress is different – identify individuals who may be at particular risk. Ensure workloads are realistic. Provide as much flexibility and control over the way in which work is planned and completed by employees as possible.
  • Train managers to identify and manage possible mental health problems. The focus should be not on attempting to ‘diagnose’ mental illness but to offer workplace support. Some of the key signs include high levels of absenteeism; significant change in mood or behaviour; unusual poor judgement or indecision; lack of concentration and complaints of tiredness. Early intervention is key and can avoid an employee’s problems escalating.
  • Provide support to people who experience mental distress at work. Give people privacy and offer the opportunity to discuss whether work has impacted on the way they feel. Work with the individual to remove ‘triggers’ at work. Where appropriate, encourage them to seek help from a professional.

The Mental Health Foundation provides further guidance on managing stress at work