A mental health condition is an important determinant of an individual’s ability to achieve maximum productivity in the workplace. Most employers have at least one employee with a mental health condition at any given time. Human Resource Professionals in organizations ought to be keen to identify employee mental health conditions since they are not as visible as physical and communication disabilities, and subsequently offer required accommodations.

Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to a work environment that make it possible for qualified employees with mental illness to perform according to expectations and contractual agreements with the employer. Most accommodations can be made for minimal or no cost at all and a bit of input in terms of time and planning. Effective accommodations assist employees resume work faster after mental illness related leave, eliminate costs due to lost productivity, and also aid in recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

The process of developing and implementing accommodations begins with input from the employee. Accommodations vary, similar to people’s strengths, work environments, and job duties.

Here are some accommodations that can be incorporated in a company for employees with mental health conditions to enable them more effectively perform their jobs;

Job duties adjustments   

  • Prioritizing and restructuring to cater to essential job duties first and finalize with non-essential job functions.
  • Organizing large assignments into smaller tasks and goals.
  • Support and/or time for orientation activities, training and learning job tasks, and new responsibilities.

Office modifications 

  • Reduction and/or removal of distractions in the work area such as adjustment of telephone volume.
  • Relocation away from noisy machinery and environment.
  • Balance of lighting to ensure employees perform visual tasks efficiently and manage side effects of mental health illness.

Management/supervision interventions 

  • Implement suitable leadership styles and open communication between employers and employees regarding performance and work expectations.
  • Tackle employee relations issues before they get out of hand.
  • Regular discussions either weekly or monthly on workplace issues and productivity as part of annual performance appraisals to assess abilities and discuss promotional opportunities.
  • Create employee awareness on right to mental health accommodations.
  • Enforce written work agreements that include any agreed upon accommodations, long-term and short-term goals, expectations of responsibilities and consequences of not meeting performance standards.

Flexible working arrangements – Telecommuting and/or working from home. 

Scheduling – Part-time work hours, reporting and leaving time adjustments, compensation for missed time.

Leave – Sick leave for reasons related to mental health, flexible use of annual leave, additional unpaid leave for treatment or recovery, leaves of absence for therapy and other related appointments.

Work breaks – Flexibility in scheduling breaks in terms of individual needs rather than a fixed schedule, provision of backup coverage during breaks, and telephone breaks during work hours to call professionals and others needed for support.

It is important to note that Part 2, Section 5 (3) (a) of the Kenyan Employment Act states that;

No employer shall discriminate directly or indirectly, against an employee or prospective employee or harass an employee or prospective employee— on grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, pregnancy, mental status or HIV status.

It is therefore a core duty of employers to ensure employees with mental health issues are fully supported to effectively and efficiently perform optimally at work.

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