How to help your employees manage diabetes at work

Dubai - With World Diabetes Day coming up on November 14, organisations would do well to consider how they can support affected members of their workforce

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By Prateek Kewalramani, Senior Manager of Middle East & Africa, Fitbit

Published: Wed 11 Nov 2020, 6:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 11 Nov 2020, 6:46 PM

November 14 is officially World Diabetes Day, a campaign created by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes.

According to IDF, in 2017, 17.3 per cent of the UAE population between the ages of 20 and 79 have Type 2 diabetes. With trends indicating that the prevalence of diabetes in the UAE is rising at a faster rate than both the MENA region and the rest of the world, and predicting the number of people with diabetes to double to 2.2 million by 2040, the chances are high that you have, or will have, employees with the disease.

Helping your employees with their diabetes management can ultimately help increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and even save your company money in healthcare costs. Here are five ideas to help your organisation confront this global health issue and help employees with diabetes better manage their condition.

1. Raise the level of awareness around diabetes

Let’s start with the basics: there are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). The causes, resulting complications, and risk factors have several distinct differences:

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas does not produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable, and those living with it require insulin.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin or when the body stops effectively using the insulin that is produced. Many people with type 2 can manage the condition with diet and exercise, while some may also need medications.

Gestational diabetes develops when a woman’s body stops adequately producing or using insulin while she is pregnant. This form usually goes away once the baby is born, but the mother and child remain at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Another condition to know about is prediabetes. Prediabetes refers to blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly, people with prediabetes are very likely to progress to Type 2 diabetes.

As a first step, it is important to bring diabetes awareness in the workplace by holding workshops and sharing diabetes prevention and management information to help employees suffering from that condition feel less isolated.

2. Educate your management team about diabetes

Your managers are busy executives. But they need to be aware of the needs of employees with diabetes and how best to accommodate them. Encourage managers and supervisors to offer a flexible work schedule to employees with the disease.

3. Make the workplace accommodating for employees with diabetes

People with diabetes are faced with many complexities when managing the condition, including monitoring their blood sugar throughout the day, watching what they eat, attending frequent doctor visits, and — if the condition worsens — self-administering between two and four insulin shots per day.

An employee with diabetes may have to take several breaks during the day to monitor blood sugar levels. Consider providing your employees with a private area to test their blood sugar levels, administer injections, and rest. Provide needle disposal, if some employees need to administer injections at work. And allow employees to take sufficient breaks to eat or drink, take their medication, or test their blood sugar levels.

4. Ask your employees how you can support them

Every employee has different needs and, depending on their treatment plan, your employees with diabetes may have very different needs requiring varying levels of support. The best way to help them manage diabetes at work could be to ask them for their specific needs and requirements, and know that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely.

5. Encourage healthy habits for Type 2 diabetes management

According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 50 per cent of the cases of Type 2 diabetes are preventable, and that starts through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

Encouraging employees to achieve their wellness goals can in turn improve self-management and self-care of diabetes. Doing so may not only reduce the progression of Type 2 diabetes but help reduce the costs of diabetes treatment and management. That would be a milestone worth celebrating on World Diabetes Day.

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