Navigating your mental health recovery journey or managing symptoms takes a lot of effort and can impact your ability to perform at work. Requesting the appropriate workplace accommodations can help support you in fulfilling your duties. People generally associate workplace accommodations with physical disabilities or physical health conditions, but you can also get accommodations if you live with a mental health disability.
It is best to seek out accommodations before your job performance is affected, workplace issues occur, or mental health symptoms become worse. If your mental health or substance use condition impacts your performance or engagement at work – or you think it could affect you in the future and want to get ahead of it – you can have a conversation with your supervisor or human resources (HR) department about what reasonable accommodations are available to help support your mental health needs.
What accommodations are available to me?
An accommodation can cover a variety of support – for example, receiving detailed instructions on assignments, acquiring a white noise machine or soundproof headphones, or permission to work from home in some cases – as long as the accommodation does not pose a significant burden or expense to the employer. According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), some common accommodations you can request to manage your mental illness and job responsibilities include:
- Flexible schedule
- Modified break schedule
- Rest area/private space
- Support animal
- Support person
- Identify and reduce triggers
If you want to research more accommodation options, explore JAN’s accommodation publications or call them at 800-526-7234 for one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related laws.
How do I go about requesting accommodations?
The exact process of requesting accommodations depends on your workplace, so in short, you will likely need to talk to your manager or an HR professional about the steps. The employer may ask you to document your request in writing, or you can initiate the conversation by completing an accommodation request letter. Consider the following items to include when drafting an accommodation request letter:
- Identify yourself as a person with a disability
- State that you are requesting accommodations under the ADA (or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if you are a federal employee)
- Identify your specific problematic job tasks
- Identify your accommodation ideas
- Request your employer’s accommodation ideas
- Refer to attached medical documentation if appropriate
- Ask that your employer respond to your request in a reasonable amount of time
A request for accommodations should be processed in a quick and timely manner by management or HR to comply with the ADA. Still, consider following up both verbally and in writing with your supervisor or HR directly to check in with the processing of your request, and continue documenting the interactions.