Improving processes for talking about and implementing work accommodations for people with chronic, episodic health conditions

We’re looking for managers and supervisors who have supported workers with chronic diseases to take part in this study

If you're a manager or supervisor with experience accommodating employees with chronic physical or mental health conditions, we’d like to talk to you about the challenges you have experienced in supporting these employees while also balancing privacy needs. Your participation would consist of a confidential phone interview of about 30 to 40 minutes.

If interested, please email or call 1-855-884-1416.

Reasons for the study

Episodic conditions, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's and colitis, depression and anxiety, are often unpredictable and invisible to others, with symptoms that fluctuate from one period in time to another. As such, they create unique challenges in managing workplace disabilities, particularly in implementing privacy and duty-to-accommodate policies. This study aims to better understand the similarities and differences across physical and mental health episodic disabilities with respect to the processes for communicating, delivering, using and adapting workplace accommodations.

Objectives of the study

  • To increase understanding of the impact of episodic disabilities on workers and workplaces
  • To illuminate communication processes and needs related to disclosure of episodic disabilities (e.g. initiating communication, changing needs)
  • To begin developing a toolkit to help employers and workers better communicate about and implement workplace accommodations

Anticipated results/impact

This research is relevant to older workers, employers, human resources professionals, disability managers, occupational health professionals, insurers, government bodies, and community organizations focused on aging, employment, disability and/or caregiving. Its findings will be relevant to programs aimed at reducing at-work disability, improving work productivity and ensuring the employment sustainability of Canadian workers with episodic disabilities.

Project status


Research team

Monique Gignac, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Dorcas Beaton, Institute for Work & Health
Curtis Breslin, Institute for Work & Health
Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, Institute for Work & Health
Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health
Arif Jetha, Institute for Work & Health
Ron Saunders, Institute for Work & Health
Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health
Emile Tompa, Institute for Work & Health
Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
Renée-Louise Franche, Simon Fraser University
Joy MacDermid, University of Western Ontario
William Shaw, University of Connecticut Health Center

Participating organizations

Canadian Mental Health Association
Crohn's & Colitis Canada
Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace
Mindful Employer Canada
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Ontario Ministry of Labour
The Arthritis Society

Funded by

Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada Signature Initiative