Technology

Discover the technological needs of your employee and the aids that may help them after a brain injury.

On returning to work

As an employer, what adjustments do you need to make to the person’s physical work environment?

When an employee returns to work after suffering a brain injury, under section 20(4) of the Equality Act 2010, you may need to adapt their physical working environment to enable them to carry out tasks independently.

In addition to the effect on their cognitive abilities, their body may also have been affected by the injury. This could be anything from a slight weakness in one limb, to an inability to walk or to use limbs at all.

Imagine, for example, an employee who has suffered a stroke and has ongoing weakness in the left side of their body, mainly in their left leg. They are able to walk, but struggle with stairs and need to use a walking stick for stability.

In this case, you would need to ensure that there is sufficient space for them to navigate safely in their working environment. This could involve ensuring that walkways are wide enough and free of anything that could create a risk of them falling.

It may also be necessary to ensure that all stairs have banisters on both sides and that there are grab rails in appropriate places, such as in an accessible toilet.

Consulting with your employee about the necessary adjustments to their physical work environment is essential. A more formal assessment and guidance from an occupational therapist will be beneficial in some circumstances, to help both of you understand what will be required.

It’s important that you are also aware of your legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments, and that you seek advice from a specialist in employment law.

Do they need extra equipment or aids at work?

Under section 20(5) of the Equality Act 2010, you should consider whether an employee returning to work after suffering a brain injury is still capable of fulfilling the duties of their role unaided. Specialist equipment may be required, or existing arrangements may need to be adapted.

For example, an employee who works in an office and has been left with sight problems may require a larger monitor, or for their display screen settings to be adapted to increase the size of writing on the screen.

Likewise, an office worker who has lost function in one of their hands following a stroke may benefit from a single-handed use keyboard for typing.

There is a wide range of technology available to assist employees in the workplace.

Assessing your employee, consulting with them about their individual needs, and exploring the technology available to assist will give them the opportunity to do their best work.

Is there any new technology that has been introduced whilst the person was away that they need training on?

We live in an age where technology is regularly replaced or upgraded. We can all struggle to keep up with changes and upgrades to the technology we use at work, be it machinery or computer software.

Changes such as this can be especially difficult for a person who has suffered a brain injury, who can find the changes hard to understand and get used to. This is not helped by the time they have needed to spend recuperating away from work.

Because people with a brain injury may feel anxious upon returning to work, they may also be less inclined to admit when they are struggling with something that has changed during their absence. It is important to make sure an employee feels supported but care has to be taken to make sure that they do not feel ‘micro-managed’.

Therefore, it’s important to consider and be aware of any changes in the technology the employee will use before their return to work. This will allow an opportunity for the employee to be adequately trained on their return.

You should also bear in mind any new requirements that your employee may have regarding the new technology and how this is used as a result of their injury.

Throughout employment

Do they need more quiet space to do their job without any distractions?

A brain injury can affect the way the brain understands and organises information. This can make it harder for an employee to stay focused on a task. Difficulties in concentration are common following a brain injury. It is possible to reduce these difficulties by minimising the level of distraction in the workplace and allowing the employee to take regular breaks.

Depending on the needs of your employee and the nature of the work, this could be achieved by:

  • Moving the employee’s desk to a quieter space
  • Having a ‘silent study’ room in the workplace
  • Putting up desk walls
  • Providing noise buffering ear wear

It is important to ensure that the employee does not feel isolated as a result of any measures taken. This can be a difficult balancing act and you should speak with the employee to see if they have any suggestions.

Has the injury had an impact on mobility around the workplace and are there any aids that could help?

A brain injury can cause many physical effects which can result in mobility issues. These may not always be obvious. For example, reduced vision and limb weakness can also impact on an employee’s ability to move around the workplace.

There are many things you can do to help make the workplace more accessible for an employee with mobility issues. You should try to ensure that the employee’s work space and floor area are kept clear and that there is enough room for them to move around. This will help to reduce the risk of falling. You can also keep items within the employees reach to minimise the amount of moving around they have to do.

If the job is more physical, for example if they need to carry out an inspection of an area, it may be that this could be done remotely via a video-link.

There are many aids that can be purchased to make the workplace accessible. The type of aid required will depend upon the needs of the employee. These could range from installing grab rails to installing a lift.

If the injury has impaired the person's memory, are there any aids that could help?

A brain injury can affect the way the brain organises and stores information. This can make it difficult for an employee to remember things.

Memory loss can mean that an employee requires help to do the same task over and over again. This can cause embarrassment for the employee and, without extra help, may mean they rely upon other employees to assist.

There are ways that you can help the employee to adapt to work around their memory difficulties.  For example, you could purchase equipment specifically designed to help with memory loss.

One of the most useful aids for memory loss is a smartphone. There are many software applications available to download that can help an employee to remember information. These can be regularly updated and are often low cost.

You may also consider purchasing a dictaphone to record meetings so that your employee can listen back to your instructions when they need to.

There are also a lot of practical things you can do to help with memory problems, such as providing written instead of oral instructions. Creating written reference user guides can help, for example to help the employee use pieces of equipment such as a photocopier or printer.

Remember, it is key to involve the employee in discussions about what adjustments are necessary and reasonable to assist them in the workplace.

Specific triggers

If time keeping has become problematic, are there any aids that could help ensure deadlines are met?

A brain injury can affect skills that help a person to manage their time effectively, such as their memory, learning, planning and problem solving abilities. If you are worried that an employee may not be able to meet deadlines, you can try to identify the difficulty they face, and find a way to help.

Time keeping issues are often a result of memory problems caused by a brain injury. You may be able to reduce the amount of information the employee needs to remember, so that the employee can concentrate on the essentials.

There are a number of aids that can help an employee having issues with time keeping. They may simply need to take written notes to keep track of their progress and what tasks need to be done. Or, they may prefer a smartphone or electronic tablet with a reminder system.  You may want to consider purchasing a software programme that can be shared, so you can monitor their progress. Again, the employee should be consulted when deciding what aids and review systems would help them.

There are also simple techniques you can use to help the employee meet deadlines. For example, you may want to decide that all tasks that are set for the employee are sent to them in writing.

It is important to be realistic about what the employee can achieve, which can be difficult if they lack insight about their capabilities. You should carefully plan a project with them and set realistic deadlines. You can also break down the deadline into smaller steps where necessary.

When new office furniture and equipment is being introduced, does the brain injured person need specialist training for this?

If you get new office furniture or equipment, this may mean that you need to provide extra training to your brain injured employee. This will depend upon the item being introduced and the employee’s needs.

For example, if the employee has mobility problems and you purchase new workstations, you may want to provide training to help the employee adapt to this.

Installing new equipment is likely to require specialist training for all of your employees who use it.  You may also need to consider providing a step-by-step written guide on how to use the equipment for your brain injured employee, particularly if they have memory difficulties.

Providing the employee with a specific person to contact if they need refresher training can also assist. Whilst they should be encouraged to speak up more generally if they need help, this could encourage them to raise concerns if they know that there is a nominated person ready and able to help them.

When new devices and software are being introduced to the company, does the brain injured person need specialist training for this?

A brain injury can affect an employee’s ability to use new devices and software.

If you are thinking about introducing a new piece of software, you should consider what specific training will be needed, and whether there are any amendments to the software that are required and can reasonably be made.

Many software programmes have settings that you can change to make them more user-friendly, for example using bigger text or a different screen resolution. You should be aware of any features of the software and think about how these could make the programme easier for the employee to use.

If you are introducing software to help an employee with a specific aspect of their brain injury, it is likely that they and others will need specialist training on how it is used. This is often provided by the creator of the software.

Smaller and more straightforward devices, such as a phone or printer, may require you to carry out a demonstration for the employee, and produce a reference guide for their future use.

 

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