A workplace plan is a document that helps an employee identify what may be needed to be successful at their job. It is not a legal contract but a request from an employee to an employer asking for reasonable changes that will allow the employee to be successful at their job. It helps because it puts suggested solutions “on paper” and gives all parties a way to discuss needs.

Ideally, an employee would work together with their manager to develop their workplace plan. It does not supersede any existing company policies, collective bargaining agreements or legislation. It is developed in good faith with the intention of having an employee be successful at work while maintaining a balance between productivity and health. This process can give managers ideas that are right for the particular employee. It is suggested that the workplace plan reviewed regularly to see if any changes need to be made to ensure continuing success at work.

The workplace plan process

The following process is used in a variety of circumstances ranging from everyday issues to complex return-to-work planning. The plan asks three questions:

  • What do you need to be successful at your job?
  • How do you want future issues to be addressed, should they arise?
  • For your contribution to being successful at your job, what will you commit to?

What do you need to be successful at your job?

Consider what you think of as problems at work. Also consider what you expect your manager to identify as problems. Then come up with possible reasonable strategies that you and your manager can discuss to meet your needs and the needs of the workplace. The examples below are not solutions, just suggestions to stimulate ideas.

  • The way work is assigned. An employee who is struggling with competing demands at work and last-minute requests from his manager may write in his workplace plan: “I understand the need to be flexible around last-minute client requests. Last-minute requests that interrupt my other tasks may cause me to feel overwhelmed because I am then unable to finish my other tasks on time. When my manager asks me to take on a last-minute task, I will ask my manager to help me prioritize my other tasks.”
  • The way your work is monitored. An employee who would describe their manager as a “micro-manager” causing distress: “I understand my manager’s need to monitor my work for quality and accuracy. When my manager interrupts my work to make changes several times a day I become agitated and lose focus and confidence in my abilities. I would like to be able to give my manager regular updates with a schedule that works for both of us and I would like my manager to wait until our scheduled meeting to give me feedback or make changes, unless the issue is urgent.”
  • The way information and direction is given. An employee who has difficulty remembering verbal instructions: “I prefer to have instructions about my tasks given to me in writing or they can be given to me verbally and I will immediately write down what I’ve heard and check back with the person who gave me the directions to make sure I’ve got it right.”

How do you want future issues to be addressed, should they arise?

You can help your manager by anticipating where you may have difficulty and giving concrete suggestions on what to do. Examples:

  • If you appear to be distressed or unwell: “If I appear to be angry with a raised voice I would like my manager to say to me: ‘I notice you seem uneasy. Would you like to continue this discussion at another time?’ “
  • If there is a performance issue that needs to be addressed with you:  “If my manager notices that the quality or quantity of my work is dropping I would like my manager to send me an email asking to speak with me about the specific tasks that he is worried about. Receiving the email will give me time to collect my thoughts before we meet to discuss the problem and knowing which specific task is the problem will help me prepare.” Another person may have a different request for the same situation: “If my manager notices that the quality or quantity of my work is dropping I would like my manager to speak to me face-to-face as soon as possible, saying: ‘I’ve noticed changes in your work and I’d like us to find a time to talk about it’. I would prefer that my manager not send me an email about it because that will just increase my anxiety.”
  • If there is conflict: “When my manager and I experience conflict between us I ask that we both refrain from speaking in anger. We may need to request to discuss the issue at another time when each of us is calm enough to have a civil conversation.”

For your contribution to being successful at your job, what will you commit to?

Sharing what you will do to be successful at work shows your manager that you are engaged in the process and gives you strategies that are specific to your needs. Here are some examples:

  • An employee who often feels unwell in the morning and avoids calling his manager: “I will make every effort to let my manager know if I am going to be late because I understand that not knowing where I am is disruptive to my manager’s day.”
  • An employee who has had emotional outbursts at work: “I will make every effort to control my emotions at work. If I feel that I am not able to maintain my composure I will remove myself from the workplace for a few moments until I feel in control of my emotions. I will leave a note on my chair so that people know where I am.”
  • An employee who doesn’t take breaks or lunch: “Every morning and afternoon I will leave my desk to take a break for 15 minutes. I will also take a break at lunch away from my desk. Taking these breaks will help me keep a healthy perspective on my work.”

Thinking about and offering solutions, instead of focusing on problems, is often an effective way to move forward toward a better working situation.