Diabetes mellitus is already very common in Malaysia, and its prevalence is set to increase further due to lifestyle issues – overconsumption and sedentary lifestyle. The office environment needs to be thought out towards:
a) prevention of diabetes, and
b) encouraging those already diabetic to safely manage its control with medications and test monitoring
There are several measures that can be taken to encourage a diabetes-friendly workplace environment.
1. Educational Informatics
Image by Ministry of Health
Providing easy to read materials, be they posters, leaflets or short articles can go far towards providing information. The posters/leaflets can be changed at intervals to avoid them from becoming “fixtures”, in order to grab the attention of the audience.
2. Encourage staff towards physical activity at every opportunity
This ranges from allotting time slots or days in the week for organised activities (Zumba, cycling, hiking/bicycling excursions) to making simple choices in daily routine (taking the stairs instead of the lift, encouraging walking by parking slightly away from office, or making a walk-around in the nearby mall which is cooled by air-conditioning).
3. Encourage healthy eating
Review available food within workplace environment, be they in the pantry, vending machine offerings or servings during internal office meetings, or having guests. Go for options like serving coffee/tea without sugar but have it available on the table with an advice on the calories each spoonful carries. Food served for a working lunch should be nutritionally healthy, while food offered in the pantry should come with its calorific value to allow consumers to make an informed choice.
4. Accommodate medication storage
Provide a safe and convenient space for staff on medication to keep their medications for consumption in office. For example, insulin vials/ampoules is best kept a range of temperature 2 -8 Celsius to conserve its content to ensure efficacy. In our current heat wave, the temperature can destroy the protein content if the vial/ampoule is left in the open.
5. Promote blood sugar monitoring
Encourage employees with diabetes to monitor their own blood sugar. This can be done by providing tabulated examples for them to compare their own results, which will prompt them to have more meaningful discussion with their own results. If feasible, provide a glucometer set (complete with alcohol wipes, lancets and strips) with an experienced staff (who might himself/herself be a diabetic on insulin injections) to be in charge or/and supervise.
6. Conduct talks or training sessions
Encourage employees to know more about diabetes and its prevention and disease progress & complications and current management in small groups. One can divide the attendees into those not known diabetic yet at risk, or those already diabetic, or even as a mixed crowd. Open screening is an excellent to lure employees to actively participate in diabetes education. Recalling that a large number of the population are unaware that they are diabetic, screening activities is an opportunity to weed out these among the employees. Take time to talk to PMCare for these activities.
7. Encourage open communication
Communicate openly: Encourage employees with diabetes to communicate their needs openly so that appropriate accommodations can be made. Foster a culture of open dialogue and understanding within the office, so that those with diabetes (even those uncontrolled or have defaulted) are able to seek help.
The workplace community should create a culture of empathy, understanding another’s need and limitation to together manage this Diabetes epidemic.