MHCC study finds accommodating aspiring workers is a win-win for employers and employees
Aspiring workers are people who have been overlooked by the workplace or sidelined due to episodic or persistent illness. The study focused on aspiring workers struggling to remain in the workplace and in need of accommodation to stay employed. Unemployment among people living with severe mental illness hovers between 70 and 90 per cent.
Researchers looked at five Canadian businesses known to champion psychological health and safety in the workplace. They examined the costs and benefits—tangible and intangible—of accommodating the mental health needs of 11 aspiring workers. The study was informed by 30 in-depth interviews with accommodated workers, co-workers, managers, human resources professionals, and organizational champions of mental health.
The return-on-investment reaped by both employers and employees for accommodating worker needs was analyzed using case studies. Researchers gathered sufficient data to develop a case study on four of the five organizations, building each case study around the experience of one accommodated employee.
The study’s economic analysis projected that employers who accommodated aspiring workers would realize a net savings of between $56,000 and $204,000 after five years, a two to seven-fold return-on-investment. These savings were mainly due to decreased absenteeism and presenteeism, lower staff turnover and increased productivity.
Workers were estimated to be four to 12 times better off financially because of accommodation, a net savings of between $31,000 and $67,000 after five years. This was mainly due to a higher income from sustained employment versus tapping into disability supports or being underemployed.
Shannon Helm agrees accommodation has benefited her financially, allowing her to perform in a deadline driven finance job where she manages four staff. But equally important, it has validated her self-worth as an employee and fostered an inclusive workplace. Helm disclosed her need for accommodation during her job interview and is forthright with colleagues about her challenges. Her frankness, combined with her employer’s willingness to accommodate, has been a boon, “Being so openly supported makes for a more honest and compatible environment in the workplace. It effects everybody positively. It builds empathy and it builds community.”
In addition to crunching the numbers and offering insight into the intangible benefits of accommodating employees, the study makes recommendations on the elements needed to successfully hire and retain aspiring workers.
“This research builds a strong business case for organizations to take active steps to make their workplace more accessible to diverse workers—to the benefit of everyone,” says lead researcher, Rebecca Gewurtz. “Although this was a relatively small-scale study, the findings highlight this as an area worthy of attention by organizations and government.”