Bipolar Disorder on the Job: How Managers and Co-workers Can Help

Author: Sam Bowman


A truly inclusive workplace can positively impact employees and companies alike in countless ways. The stressors that jobs bring to the average employee don’t have to be exacerbated by unacknowledged issues. Employees with bipolar disorder, for instance, can benefit from some extra care and inclusion related to their specific needs.

Unique Challenges for Employees With Bipolar

This isn’t to say that employees with bipolar disorder are unable to succeed professionally. Although 88% of employees with bipolar report occupational difficulties and their rate of unemployment is much higher than average, this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s probable that workplaces simply don’t create the right environment in which these employees can thrive.

A work environment that doesn’t nurture employees with bipolar could cause issues such as low income and high unemployment rates. This stems from the propensity of these employees to encounter:

● Conflict and strained relationships;

● Decreased physical health;

● Stifled communication;

● Lack of needed flexibility;

● Little time and resources for treatment.

If a company can work on making a more inclusive environment for all employees, it will undoubtedly help employees with bipolar succeed in the process.

How Teams Can Create a More Inclusive Environment

Many teams tout an inclusive workplace, but managers and co-workers need to foster that environment daily. Use the following tips to effectively support employees with bipolar.

Raising Awareness

The first step to bipolar inclusion in the workplace is simply to be aware. Management can still work to create an environment that is inclusive for those with mental health concerns. Consider implementing educational programs and initiatives like workshops and seminars led by mental health professionals.

Encourage open conversations about mental health, including bipolar disorder, to reinforce that your workplace is a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences. If and when people on the team with bipolar come to you with their thoughts, acknowledge that this is likely difficult for them. Listen attentively and offer feedback, if they ask for it, in a mindful, actionable way.

Reducing Stigma

Even with proper education on bipolar disorder, stigmas can still permeate the workplace and cause insidious, oft-unnoticed issues. Don’t wait until it’s too late and your employees with bipolar disorder are ready to call it quits.

Recognize that some people may be unconsciously biased against those with bipolar. Some common misconceptions include that these employees are unpredictable, unstable, and incompetent. Employers must work to dismantle these types of stereotypes. Make sure that employees with bipolar know that they will not be discriminated against if they come forward with their diagnosis, letting them voice their opinions for improvement during periodic check-ins.

Offering Resources and Accommodations

The best way to understand the needs of employees with bipolar is to ask them. If they don’t know what would help or don’t feel comfortable speaking up, you can still offer resources and accommodations that they may be interested in. Recognize that everyone is different, and some strategies and support may work well for one individual with bipolar but not for another. Many of these resources may be helpful for others in the workplace. Consider offering:

● Comprehensive mental health assistance;

● Support groups;

● Flexible schedules;

● Feedback submissions;

● Quiet workspace options;

● Understanding leave policies;

● Time management solutions.

Many of these accommodations can enhance overall employee productivity, such as company-wide time management improvement. Try incorporating automation tools for time tracking, inventory management, marketing campaigns, and even cybersecurity. Remote work can even be a huge time-saver if you’re open to it. These efforts all work together to create a calmer, more organized environment that will allow employees with bipolar disorder to perform their best. The addition of mental health support can also offer these individuals the resources they need to navigate professional conflicts and relationships effectively.

Improving Overall

Employers can take measures that improve the entire company, which will, in turn, help those team members with bipolar greatly. For instance, taking measures to reduce human error in the workplace can offer a more stable environment for those living with bipolar, making work more predictable and safe day-to-day. Try decluttering workspaces, encouraging open communication, educating on safety protocols, automating processes, and analyzing constantly for potential areas that could use improvement. Putting forth the effort to minimize human error not only creates a calm, predictable environment for employees with bipolar and helps the business overall.

Fostering a workplace that supports employees with bipolar disorder not only contributes to individual well-being but also enhances overall organizational health. By actively combating stigma through education, open communication, and flexible accommodations, you can empower employees to manage their conditions successfully while contributing their unique talents. This demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also cultivates a culture of inclusivity, understanding, and empathy.

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