Diabetes is a medical condition in which the body is unable to produce or doesn’t properly use insulin. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. When blood glucose levels are not controlled through diet, exercise, and medication, serious diabetes-related health complications can arise.
According to a recent study, the prevalence of diabetes among employed US adults is approximately 6.4%. Whether employees are working remotely, in a hybrid setting, or in an office setting, those living with diabetes face significant physical and emotional demands that employers should be aware of and understand how to help with.
Managing an Employee With Diabetes
When you take action to improve the health and well-being of your employees, you’re benefiting not only individual employees but also your organization. Small changes in the workplace can help keep employees engaged in diabetes management; increase energy levels, productivity, and concentration; and reduce the chance of on-the-job injury.
If you don’t have experience managing an employee with diabetes, it’s important to learn about the daily self-care needs of those with diabetes. Many factors can affect blood glucose levels, including diet, exercise, medications, stress, hydration, and illness.
To ensure that blood glucose levels stay in their target range, people living with diabetes may need to check blood glucose levels, take insulin and other medications, adhere to a diabetes diet plan, and engage in physical activity. Managing diabetes at work can introduce new challenges. Employees living with diabetes may need to test glucose levels at a specific time, they may need a private place to test blood glucose levels or inject insulin, or they may need a place to rest while they wait for blood glucose levels to return to normal. They may also require time off for doctor visits, treatment, diabetes education, or recuperation.
Diabetes management is unique to each individual. Employees may require different accommodations depending on their needs and personal preferences.
Tips for Managing Employees With Diabetes
Here are four tips that can help your company address diabetes in the workplace and support your employees’ diabetes management.
1. Educate Your Team on Diabetes
Educating supervisors and managers about diabetes basics will make them aware of the needs of their employees and how to accommodate them. This is particularly important in the event an employee with diabetes experiences a diabetic emergency, such as hypoglycemia. It’s important for someone in the workplace to know how to recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and know what to do.
2. Ask How to Support Them
Because everyone living with diabetes has a unique treatment plan, each employee with diabetes may have different daily or long-term needs. If they’ve shared their diabetes diagnosis with you and are comfortable discussing accommodations, make an effort to provide personalized accommodations. Ask them how you can best support them with their diabetes management. This small act can show you’re invested in their health and wellness and create an environment conducive to satisfying their unique needs.
3. Be Cognizant of Their Needs
When managing an employee with diabetes, it’s important to be cognizant of their needs and to make reasonable efforts to accommodate them. If they’re required to test their blood glucose levels throughout the day or administer insulin, they may need a private place to do so. You may need to provide sharps containers that employees with diabetes can use to dispose of used needles and other sharps. Employees with diabetes may need to take breaks to test blood glucose levels, take medicine, have a snack, or rest.
Sometimes the small things can be overlooked, and you may not even realize their effect on employees living with diabetes. For example, the simple act of buying the team lunch or bringing in donuts for a special occasion can leave those with diabetes feeling left out. Be sure to also offer healthy food choices for meetings, in break rooms, in the cafeteria, and in vending machines.
Supporting the Health and Wellness of Employees With Diabetes
You don’t need to be an expert on diabetes to manage an employee with diabetes. Education, compassion, and awareness, and a few small changes can go a long way. Staying on top of diabetes management at work can be challenging for employees, but with your support, they can thrive in the workplace while meeting their health goals.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.