Partnering in Employees’ Health

Over the past several years I’ve been dogged by a series of physical ailments, none life-threatening, and none of which disabled me.

But these ailments have contributed to a significant loss of productivity. At the least, they’ve distracted me from my work. At worst, they’ve stressed me, eroded my focus, reduced my cognition.

We emphasize at Path Forward the essential need to connect with our employees and co-workers.  When we’re connected at a meaningful level with our employees, we can help them find a more positive and productive way of being in their jobs. Leveraging what we know about what makes them tick, what they enjoy, what they fear, and what they aspire to, we can steer them toward fulfilling work experiences that also benefit the organization.

But what’s not so easy is leveraging what we know about how they feel, physically.  I’m sure you’ll agree that an employee’s physical health is a primary determinant of their performance.  When you don’t feel good, you generally don’t perform well. But how an employee feels is often difficult to discern.  Why?  Because it’s a touchy, risky issue to discuss.

As leaders we need to know our boundaries.  We need to know the legalities involved in asking questions about employee health issues. But part of building the deep and abiding relationships that are critical for job satisfaction and effectiveness is an understanding of the employee’s readiness to work.

How do we legally and respectfully get to this understanding? This is the question I pose for your consideration.  Or more specifically…

YOUR PATH FORWARD: Ponder, and respond below if you’d like, to any or all of these questions:

  • Where do an employee’s personal health concerns overlap with the concerns of the company about their ability to perform?
  • What is the leader’s role in inquiring about an employee’s physical readiness to work?
  • What is the leader’s role in assessing the impact of poor physical health on the team, and taking action based on that assessment?
  • What is the leader’s role in helping employees stay healthy? (Obviously, the company’s ability to provide health care coverage is an important consideration, but the best medical insurance is no guarantee of employee health.)

We are more than just employers — we are partners in the health of our workers. How do we act into this partnership in the most appropriate way?

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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