Supporting Employees with Invisible DisabilitiesOct 14, 2022
October is National Occupational Therapy Month, so throughout the month we are highlighting Occupational Therapists and the work they do. Invisible Disabilities Week is October 16th to 22nd. With this success story, we reflect on how OTs can help employees with invisible disabilities achieve success in their workplaces.
Occupational Therapists help employees transform their lives every day. Read our Success Stories to learn how we have enabled employees across thousands of organizations to achieve better health and productivity.
- Jennifer* was a customer service representative at a financial institution in a customer call centre.
- She was a new employee in the role (approximately one year).
- She was working from home.
- High job satisfaction
- Good relationship with her team
- Very personable, easily developed rapport with customers
- Always willing to lend a helping hand to others
Barriers to Work Performance
Jennifer was unable to meet productivity expectations at work due to challenges with reading long documents, difficulty sitting still for long periods of time, and overall difficulties with sustaining focus on her work tasks. She had a hard time managing her time and work tasks. Her manager also noticed that her work performance was not in line with her peers. These observations and a discussion with the employee prompted a referral to Occupational Therapy, as the employee identified that she had an invisible disability and required work accommodation.
The Occupational Therapy Approach
After assessment by an Occupational Therapist, the following accommodation strategies were recommended and implemented:
- Environmental modifications: adjusting the workstation set up and screen settings to reduce visual fatigue and rearranging the employee’s room to reduce distractions.
- Assistive technology: use of Windows tools such as Narration (screen reader) to read long documents and emails.
- Tools: wireless headset to allow for movement while talking to customers.
- Coaching support to help the employee build skills: teaching her how to control her breathing to manage stress and overwhelm, as well as sensory strategies such as additional movement to improve attention and focus.
- Coaching for the manager: review of workplace strategies and recommendations to begin and implementation of weekly check-ins. The manager reviewed the employee’s role and identified areas of the role where she excelled to maximize her strengths. Additional support was provided for areas where the employee was having challenges.
Results of the OT Intervention
After completion of the OT sessions, the employee was not only meeting, but exceeding her work productivity metric. The employee also expressed that she had integrated the skills learned in OT sessions into her daily life, which helped to decrease her feelings of overwhelm in all facets of her life.
*Note that all names and other personal identifiers have been changed to protect the identity of the employee.