How A HR Department Can Help When A Worker Has An Eating Disorder

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Eating disorders are on the rise with many people going completely undiagnosed. It is a serious mental health issue that impacts the sufferer’s life, work and their loved ones around them.

But, it is also a very tricky area as an employer. Any concern you have for somebody you suspect has an eating disorder can come across as an invasion of privacy. Since eating disorders are a sign of mental illness, your company does have a responsibility to help an employee that is ill.

How should you proceed if your worker seems to have a problem with an eating disorder? In this article, I will go over several steps to take to make sure they get the help they need.  

Enlist help from the managers

The direct supervisors or team leaders in the department where your employee works are usually the ones that know them best. They can see if there are changes in behavior that would warrant escalating a situation to the HR team. 

Though, they are not trained medical professionals and shouldn’t be throwing around any kind of diagnosis. They should be the ones that work directly with the HR department in trying to gauge the seriousness of the situation.

Your first priority is to find a way to help your employee get better from their illness, but there are also business decisions to be made. They can alert you to the possibility of the disorder affecting productivity, increased absences and how they work with their peers. 

Your HR department should be training your managers in how to broach sensitive situations like a mental illness without it being confrontational. 

Find solutions for your employee

There are going to be two distinct camps that the employee can fall into. One is where they will deny any kind of problem and push back against a perceived breach of trust and invasion of privacy.

The other will have the employee acknowledge that there is a problem and they are powerless to help themselves. 

In the latter case, it is up to the employer to find the right solution to their problem and find the best way to move forward. This includes even helping them find out if they may be considered disabled according to the SSA and need to discontinue working for the time being. 

There are ways for them to get the help they need and continue working by suggesting a work redesign that can fit their schedule with therapy and any hospital stays that might be required. 

Employ an occupational health therapist

Find out if your employer health insurance policy allows for use of an occupational health therapist. If they don’t try to find a way to work with one for your employee as it is critical to have this support in case of a medical leave.

This therapist will help them regain their occupation-based quality of life. In other words, to help them get well enough to be able to continue working and be self sufficient. A therapist will help neuter the mental illness to a point that the patient is able to recover some control over their life and live to their best abilities. And this generally focuses around being able to work. 

During this time, they may be able to work while doing the program with an occupational therapist, so it is essential to be able to accommodate their new schedule. If you are serious about helping them, then this should include some of the previous advice in the last section about finding a way to redesign their workload. 

Create a better atmosphere

If you have somebody that has an eating disorder it could be from anxiety caused by the work or the culture of your office. Do an internal audit to find out if there is a systemic issue at your workplace that may have contributed.

If you find that there are problems with other employees regarding their mental health due to how the work culture is, then you should seek help in addressing how the culture can be fixed. 

It could be how job performance is evaluated, or maybe there is not enough training done to promote a collaborative atmosphere regarding how your employees work as a team. 

A good idea is to start a program that focuses on the health of your employees that will keep them happy, healthy and productive. Of course, none of these things can prevent mental illness as it is a disease, but it can go a long way to helping your employees lead healthier lives outside of work. 

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