How to support employees with invisible disabilities in 2024

In 2024, employers are being urged to extend their support to employees who have hidden or invisible disabilities, with FDM Group, a company dedicated to bridging the gap between individuals and technology, offering six key tips to facilitate this.

FDM Group underscores the importance of businesses actively supporting staff with invisible disabilities, highlighting the positive impact this has on creating a productive and supportive work environment.

Invisible disabilities, also known as hidden disabilities, are medical conditions that aren't immediately obvious to others. These encompass a range of issues, including mental health disorders, chronic illnesses, and cognitive impairments. Examples of such conditions include anxiety disorders, diabetes, chronic pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and autoimmune diseases.

A concerning statistic is that only an estimated 4% of individuals with disabilities disclose their condition to their employers. This lack of disclosure means that many employees do not receive the necessary support, leading to unique workplace challenges that can affect their performance and overall wellbeing.

By prioritising support for employees with invisible disabilities, employers can cultivate an inclusive and diverse workplace. Such an approach is pivotal in promoting equality and acknowledging the unique contributions and value of every employee, regardless of their physical or mental health challenges.

Jodie Price is a Senior Recruitment consultant at FDM Group and the Chairperson of the company’ Unique Network that supports employees with visible and non-visible disabilities. She said: “Supporting employees with invisible disabilities requires a combination of awareness, understanding, and proactive policies.

“These individuals bring unique perspectives and enrich company culture. However, they often face additional challenges that can impact their productivity and mental health.

“By creating an accommodating and supportive environment, we not only enable these employees to thrive, but also underline our commitment to inclusion and equality. It also signals to all staff that every individual matters, boosting morale, encouraging empathy, and ultimately leading to a more cohesive, effective workforce."

Here are six ways that organisations can support employees with invisible or hidden disabilities in 2024:

Raise awareness

Conducting training sessions to educate employees on invisible disabilities can help to foster a better understanding of the challenges faced by their colleagues. By doing so, you can help reduce stigma and encourage open conversations about invisible disabilities.

Implement inclusive policies

Develop and communicate clear policies that support employees with invisible disabilities, including flexible work arrangements, reasonable accommodations, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. By doing so, you can foster a workplace culture that prioritises inclusivity and support. These policies help encourage teamwork, empathy, and understanding among colleagues, and create an overall better workplace for everyone!

Provide training for managers

Offer training programmes for managers to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to support employees with invisible disabilities, including effective communication and accommodation implementation. Investing in this type of training will ensure that employees with hidden disabilities have the support they need and regular check-ins to help them flourish in their roles.

Leadership teams should set an example by actively promoting an inclusive workplace culture. As part of this, they should demonstrate understanding, support employees, and actively participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Encourage open communication

It’s crucial that you create a culture that encourages open communication. Let employees know they can discuss their invisible disabilities with supervisors, managers, or HR in a safe space without fear of judgement or negative consequences. This way, you can learn what accommodations they may need to make their working environment more comfortable for them. You can work with employees to create individualised support plans to address the unique challenges they face, as everyone will be different.

Reasonable accommodations

You should make it clear that reasonable accommodations are available to anyone who needs them. This could include things like ergonomic adjustments, modified workspace, or any other additional support for employees with specific needs. It should also include accessibility initiatives to ensure that physical and digital spaces are accessible to all employees, such as making facilities wheelchair accessible and ensuring that digital content is compatible with assistive technologies.

Mental health support programmes

Implement mental health support programmes, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or counselling services, to provide resources for employees dealing with mental health challenges. Employees dealing with mental health challenges may experience reduced productivity and engagement. Mental health support programmes, such as counselling services, can provide the tools and resources needed to cope, leading to improved performance and focus at work.