A Culture of Support

There are many ways in which organizations can build strong, positive, and supportive cultures through the smart use of climatic tools.

Reasonable Accommodation

One important aspect to understand is that Title I of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its 2008 amendments) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment. Under the ADAAA, the term “disability” means having “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” or “a record of such impairment” or “being regarded as having such an impairment.”

Without spending too much time on the details of the Young v. UPS 2015 ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that United Parcel Service (UPS) had violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination on. the. basis. of. pregnancy, childbirth, or. related. medical conditions.” 42 U. S. C §2000e(k). The Act states that employers must treat women affected by pregnancy the same as other persons who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Peggy Young was a part-time driver United Parcel Service (UPS). She became pregnant and her doctor told her that she could not lift more than 20 pounds; however, UPS has a requirement that must be able to lift up to 70 pounds. Because of the lifting restriction, UPS told Young that she could not work until she could again lift 70 pounds. A key takeaway from the Court’s decision is that employees, with the assistance of their doctors, are best suited to identify the type of accommodation/support they need. Companies should be mindful to provide the same level and type of support to all employees.

Employees with more serious disabilities, like cancer, might be concerned with their own ability to perform. Murphy, Markle, Nguyen, & Wilkinson (2013) found that for employees with cancer, the most common problem reported was dealing with its effects while maintaining enough stamina to work, with 36% of employees who reported that their job was too physically demanding for them to continue it during cancer treatments. Furthermore, the most commonly reported problem was fatigue, followed by anxiety. Thirty-two percent of employees with cancer stated that they did not feel comfortable disclosing their cancer to their employer or to their co-workers. The participants in this study reported that their employers were generally supportive, but some respondents experienced problems with the management of their paid time off. For example, one respondent reported that they lost telecommuting privileges once their supervisor became aware of their illness. Flexible work schedules, the ability to telecommute, extra paid sick days, job security, and good health insurance benefits were all cited as the most helpful thing that employers can provide to employees with disabilities. It seems likely that, from the time an employee becomes disabled, many employees could benefit from formalized support in managing and maintaining their employment.

Workplace Flexibilities

In 2015, Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), a consulting firm that is focused on helping organizations implement workplace strategies, such as: Telecommuting, hoteling, desk sharing, agile work, open office, and flexible work reviewed and analyzed over 4,000 studies, reports, and articles about “agile work”. They identified the most common advantages for the companies that establish such programs.

Agile work environments improve employee satisfaction. GWA found that employees value worklife balance, view telework as a job perk, and a third of professionals would take a 10% pay cut to be able to telework and 36% would chose telework over a pay raise. GWA’s analysis also revealed that agile work cultures reduce attrition; for example, 46% of companies with teleworking policies have reduced employee turnover and 14% of Americans have changed jobs to shorten their commutes. Moreover, those who can telework are more likely to return to work more quickly than those who cannot, following surgery or another temporary disability. Also, employees appreciate flexible hours while teleworking because they have the ability to run errands or schedule appointments without wasting an entire vacation day. Finally, teleworkers are forced to be more independent and self-directed, which builds employee empowerment.

GWA concluded that, in order to improve employees’ affective well-being and effectiveness, organizations should adopt workplace flexibilities and that supervisors should encourage the members of their teams to actively make use of such options; for example, supervisors should create a team climate where using flextime is acceptable. Moreover, Rofcanin, Las Heras, & Bakker (2016) found that the role of family supportive supervisor behaviors directly influenced employee work attitudes and behaviors.

Employee Assistance Programs Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide no-cost counseling and other services to employees and their families. However, EAPs primarily intervene in the workplace directly through offering educational campaigns for all employees, group-level interventions for work teams, and problem-specific coaching for individual managers. According to Banning (2016), a good EAP consists of worklife and wellness programs that raise awareness of mental health issues and to help identify unhealthy workplace practices. The EAP should also play a role in motivating and supporting people in their personal wellness goals, reducing harmful stress, and by providing psychological first aid in times of crisis. EAP counselors are likely to encounter “repeat clients” who repeatedly report a culture where bullying is tolerated and who feel victimized in their workplace.


It is estimated that more than 12% (i.e., approximately 16 million people) of the working-age population have some sort of long-term disability and three-quarters of unemployed workers with disabilities cite employment discrimination in the workplace and a lack of transportation as major factors that prevent them from working. Agile corporate cultures are flexible, supportive, and inclusive. All employees, not just those with disabilities, can benefit from such policies. Finally, organizations who adopt a flexible corporate culture benefit by having reduced attrition and increased employee engagement.


Rofcanin, Y., Las Heras, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2016). Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors and Organizational Culture: Effects on Work Engagement and Performance. Journal Of Occupational Health Psychology, doi:10.1037/ ocp0000036

Murphy, K. M., Markle, M. M., Nguyen, V., & Wilkinson, W. (2013). Addressing the employment-related needs of cancer survivors. Work: Journal Of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation, 46(4), 423–432.

Global Workplace Analytics (2015). Advantages of Agile Work Strategies for Companies. Retrieved on October 20, 2016 from http://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/resources/costs-benefits.

Banning, N. (2016). Counselling the workforce. Therapy Today, 27(3), 32–35.

*Originally published in my column, Cultural Acumen, in the November 2016 in PTCMW Newsletter.

[Note: The personal opinions expressed in this article are mine alone and are not reflective of any other entity. Furthermore, the opinion and any interpretations herein are not indicative of my opinion regarding any particular pending matter and will not necessarily reflect any expert opinion that I might take in the future.]