How to Help Your Employees Manage Diabetes at Work
November 14th is officially World Diabetes Day, a campaign created by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes.
With more than 100 million people in the US living with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, the chances are high that you have employees with the disease. Helping your employees with their diabetes management can ultimately help save your company money in healthcare costs, increase productivity, and reduce absenteeism.
Here are five ideas to help your organization confront this global health issue and help employees with diabetes better manage their condition.
1. Bring awareness to diabetes
Let’s start with the basics: there are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). The causes, resulting complications, and risk factors have several distinct differences:
Type 1 diabetesis an autoimmune disease where the pancreas does not produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable, and those living with type 1 require insulin.
Type 2 diabetesdevelops when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin or when the body stops effectively using the insulin that is produced. Many people with type 2 can manage the condition with diet and exercise, while some may also need medications.
Gestational diabetesdevelops when a woman’s body stops adequately producing or using insulin while she is pregnant. This form usually goes away once the baby is born, but the mother and child remain at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Another condition to know the facts about is prediabetes. Prediabetes refers to blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly, people with prediabetes are very likely to progress to type 2 diabetes.
Bring diabetes awareness in the workplace by holding workshops and sharing diabetes prevention and management information to help employees suffering from that condition feel less isolated.
2. Educate your management team about diabetes
Your managers are busy executives. Start by educating management and supervisors about diabetes, so they are aware of the needs of employees with diabetes and how best to accommodate them. Encourage managers and supervisors to offer a flexible work schedule to employees with the disease.
3. Make the workplace accommodating for employees with diabetes
People with diabetes are faced with many complexities when managing the condition, including monitoring their blood sugar throughout the day, watching what they eat, attending frequent doctor visits, and, if the condition worsens, eventually self-administering between two and four insulin shots per day.
An employee with diabetes may have to take several breaks during the day to monitor blood sugar levels. Consider providing your employees with a private area to test their blood sugar levels, administer injections, and rest. Provide needle disposal if some employees need to administer injections at work. And allow employees to take a sufficient amount of breaks to eat or drink, take their medication, or test their blood sugar levels.
4. Ask your employees how to best support them
Every employee has different needs, and depending on their treatment plan, your employees with diabetes may have very different needs and require varying levels of support. So the best way to help your employees manage diabetes at work could be to ask them for their specific needs and requirements, and know that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely.
5. Encourage healthy habits for type 2 diabetes management
According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 50 percent of the cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable, and that starts through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. Fitbit’s health coaching program targets individuals with type 2 diabetes and can help them become healthier by encouraging healthy eating habits and exercise.
Helping employees achieve their wellness goals can in turn improve self-management and self-care of diabetes. Doing so may not only reduce the progression of type 2 diabetes but help reduce the costs of diabetes treatment and management. That would be a milestone worth celebrating on World Diabetes Day.