Need, availability and use of benefits and accommodations

In numbers, who needed workplace support, and who saw improved outcomes?

An Institute for Work & Health (IWH) study asked 219 workers with arthritis about the types of workplace benefits and accommodations they needed and used. The results, shown in Table 1, indicate for each type of benefit or accommodation the percentage of participants who did not need it, who needed it and used it, or who needed it but did not use it—most often because the benefit or accommodation was not available.

Table 1: Need for, availability of and use of benefits and accommodations
Benefits and job accommodation Not needed (%) Needed and used (%) Needed and not used (%)
Extended health benefits 25.1 50.2 24.1
Short-term leave 64.8 26.0 9.1
Flexible hours/flex-time 48 41.1 11.0
Modified schedules 61.2 24.7 14.2
Special equipment 49.8 41.6 8.7
Work-at-home arrangements 64.8 25.6 9.6

The IWH study of 219 workers with arthritis analyzed the link between the use of benefits and accommodations and several work outcomes. The ✓s in the table below indicate programs that were linked with statistically significant better outcomes, when comparing people who needed and used the programs to people who needed but didn’t use them.

Table 2: The link between workplace supports and work outcomes
  Less workplace activity limitations Fewer job disruptions Less loss of productivity Less absenteeism Less likelihood to reduce hours
Extended health benefits    
Short-term leave  
Flexible hours/flex-time        
Modified schedule    
Special equipment        
Work-at-home arrangements    

How were the work outcomes measured?

This study used several different ways to measure how participants’ health conditions affected their work. These were:

  • Workplace Activity Limitations questionnaire: a 12-item survey asking about the difficulty people had with a range of tasks (such as getting to or from the workplace, sitting for long periods, concentrating, keeping up with the pace of work)
  • Job disruption: a 10-item questionnaire about job disruptions in the previous six months (from arriving late and leaving early to inability to make meetings or work desired shifts)
  • Productivity loss: a question asking whether participants experienced productivity loss in the previous six months, scoring 1 for not at all to 5 for a great deal
  • Absenteeism: a question asking participants whether they had absences due to arthritis in the past six months (including time off for appointments)
  • Reduced hours: a question asking participants whether they had permanently reduced their working hours due to arthritis (yes or no)

Source: At Work, Issue 79, Winter 2015: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto

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