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Accommodating Mental Health Disabilities in the Workplace

Millions of Americans with mental health conditions lead happy, productive, and rewarding lives—both at home and in the workplace. Even today, public awareness and knowledge of the impact of these conditions can be limited, and myths and stereotypes often take precedence over facts and science. As an inclusive employer, you can help change that.

The National ADA Network says that over 44,000,000 adults in the U.S. are affected by mental health conditions, comprising about 18.5% of the population. One key point to keep in mind is that disabilities classified as a mental health condition are not always clearly defined, and may be temporary or permanent, depending on the individual. The EEOC explains further what types of conditions may be included, and whether it is to be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Examples of these conditions can include (but are not limited to): obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. More information on how the ADA protects individuals with mental health related disabilities can be found at the Social Security Administration website.

Here's some ways that you can help empower individuals with mental health related disabilities to succeed in the workplace.

Scheduling and flexibility

Allowing work-from-home options and flexible breaks is a simple way to improve productivity and morale for all employees, including those affected by mental health related disabilities.

Physical workplace accommodations

These are accommodations to the office or workspace itself, such as "isolation pods" where employees can reduce visual and auditory distractions, or "quiet areas" of the office. Sound masking devices can help to reduce anxiety, improve focus, and block out low-volume background noise or distrations. Partitions, room dividers, or other easily visible barriers can help as well. Providing noise-canceling headphones is yet another example.

Assistive technology

As with other categories of disabilities, great advancements have been made in technology that can assist those with mental health conditions.

Microsoft has been a pioneer in including many assistive features in their Windows 10 and Office 365 software to help reduce distractions and improve focus:

You can find more information on reasonable accommodations for mental health disabilities from the U.S. Department of Labor.