Hyperhidrosis @ WORK! AT&T Works it Out
With a reach that impacts 99% of the world’s business, and 237,734 employees around the globe, AT&T is an international powerhouse – a powerhouse with a potentially large hyperhidrosis (Hh) population.
According to recent research Hh affects 4.8% of the population, which means that AT&T could easily have 11,500 employees worldwide dealing with excessive sweating on a regular basis. Helping these employees to perform optimally and to feel valued, despite their hyperhidrosis, is part of AT&T’s health and diversity initiatives. Partnering with the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS), AT&T recently added Hh as one of the relatively common medical conditions it recognizes as a disability – a condition that can benefit from accommodations at work for employees’ greater comfort, creativity, and productivity.
To help employees and managers better understand Hh and how workplace accommodations can help, IHhS presented a webinar to hundreds in the AT&T community. Afterwards, IHhS received numerous thank-you messages from AT&T employees who either personally suffer from Hh, or know someone who does. The webinar was hosted by one of AT&T’s employee resource groups known as The NETwork and the Health Awareness Committee. The NETwork produces various health events, newsletters, blogs, and forums along with monthly Fit Fridays events.
To get this ball rolling, we had help from the inside. (Hint, hint, are you passionate about making the world of work better for hypehidrosis sufferers? Get in touch with us! We’d love to team up with you and your employer to help.)
An AT&T employee, who is a hyperhidrosis sufferer, reached out to us because she knows how hard it can be to live with hyperhidrosis and feel misjudged, held back, or ashamed. She also knows that trying to hide hyperhidrosis and manage it alone can take away from her creativity, productivity, and engagement at work and that there must be other AT&T employees going through similar struggles. To help, she put us in touch with the Health Awareness Committee so that the IHhS could better inform the AT&T community about hyperhidrosis and how simple workplace accommodations and general appreciation for the seriousness of the condition can make a big difference. AT&T and IHhS will also be working together to promote Hh-related volunteer opportunties.
But AT&T’s acceptance of hyperhidrosis isn’t just about health, workplace accommodations, and community service: it also represents something bigger.
“At AT&T, every voice matters and embracing differences helps us to attract top talent while empowering everyone to make valuable contributions,” says the AT&T employee.
AT&T employees are encouraged to confidentially self-identify their diversity with health issues and disabilities, like hyperhidrosis, included. By recognizing disabilities as a form of diversity and empowering employees to self-identify what makes them diverse, AT&T is acknowledging that unique perspectives and experiences are often an asset at work and that individuals themselves best define diversity in its many forms. In terms of Hh, this means removing the stigma and shame of excess sweating and ensuring that employees with Hh feel respected, valued, and supported so they can make their biggest contributions.
“As long as someone is ashamed, they will be silent,” says International Hyperhidrosis Society Executive Director, Lisa Pieretti. “And as long as others are negatively judging someone by their perspiration, they will be excluded. AT&T’s work to recognize, accommodate and even value hyperhidrosis for the diverse perspective it brings is a huge positive step. Employees at AT&T are so fortunate to have such a forward-thinking company behind them – we can’t wait to help these attitudes spread to other workplaces worldwide.”
Although AT&T’s acceptance of hyperhidrosis as a form of diversity through disability may be uncommon, the company’s recognition of the value of broad perspectives is not. In the business world, it’s actually no secret that fostering diversity is a crucial aspect of success in the global marketplace. A diverse workforce allows businesses to better understand – and serve - their customers while also promoting creativity and innovation. Forbes magazine reports, “Diversity of thought is crucial for business growth and evolution.” Inc. Magazine similarly writes, “The most agile and profitable organizations know that diversifying their employee base directly correlates to their bottom line.”
What Works for You?
No two cases of hyperhidrosis are exactly alike, which means that appropriate workplace accommodations for excessive sweating will depend a lot on the individual and the type of work he or she does.
When International Hyperhidrosis Society Executive Director, Lisa Pieretti, discussed workplace adjustments for Hh with AT&T, these were some of the accommodations she recommended (you can find many useful products through IHhS’ Fan Faves):
- Improving awareness of hyperhidrosis as a medical condition and recognition that sweating is NOT a character flaw or reflection of capabilities
- Promoting flexible work schedules and telecommuting, when possible
- Ensuring the time/space to change clothing as necessary
- Making “therapeutic” clothing such as Thompson Tee undershirts and Sutran dress shirts available options for office workers and as part of field uniforms
- Making sweat management accessories such as absorbent shoe inserts, underarm pads, and hat liners available
- Allowing employees to wear gloves with absorbent liners
- Including breathable, quick-dry office chairs and vehicle seat liners in employees’ ergonomic choices
- Providing waterproof/water resistant casings for computers and handheld technology.
- Ready access to drinking water
- Accepting the fist bump instead of the hand shake
- Allowing personal fans and cooler air conditioning
- Allowing personal hand towels
How does excessive sweating affect you at work? Can you be your most productive self while “dealing” with hyperhidrosis?
If you could change your required work attire, office space, telecommuting options, computer, phone, chair, or vehicle to accommodate hyperhidrosis, how would you do so? How would this impact your ability to do your job? Share your ideas and let’s put hyperhidrosis to WORK.
Making the needs and voices of hyperhidrosis sufferers heard within workplaces worldwide is an important step to bringing hyperhidrosis the attention – and treatment -- it deserves. We commend AT&T for recognizing hyperhidrosis as a disability benefiting from accommodations and as a valuable aspect of diversity.
Watch this blog for more information on workplace accommodations for excessive sweating at AT&T and beyond.
Looking for more ways to help hyperhidrosis be taken seriously?
Encourage your employer to match donations to the International Hyperhidrosis Society or to make hyperhidrosis information available through human resources and workplace health and wellness programs. We can help!
Remember that children and teens (as many as 1 in 5) struggle with hyperhidrosis in school and it can seriously affect success in school and social emotional development. Help your local schools to be hyperhidrosis-aware by referring teachers and school nurses to SweatHelp.org.
AT&T is working to remove barriers to student success through its AT&T Aspire program. Like AT&T, we believe that all students have the right to reach their full potential. Help us to make sure that hyperhidrosis doesn’t hold anyone back.