By DR. STEVEN A. GEST, M.D., Founder and CMO
What happens in your workplace when a worker is injured on the job? Workplace injuries typically involve workers’ compensation claims and a lot of paperwork. They may trigger an investigation into the cause of the injury, including an evaluation of whether employee conduct was appropriate, complete with mandatory post-accident drug and alcohol tests for the injured worker.
It may take time to make repairs to the workplace and get production up and running again. It may take some time to nail down who will cover shifts for the injured employee. And somebody will have to make an assessment of whether and when the injured worker can return to work, and whether the expected work restrictions dictated by a doctor can be met in the workplace.
What’s missing in all of this? How about a simple expression of concern for the injured worker?
Before an Injury: Lay the Groundwork
After a worker is injured is not the best time to begin building a trusting and caring relationship. If you proactively create a culture in which workers know that you care about their health and well-being, you won’t have to fight an uphill battle to gain their trust in the wake of an injury. A workplace wellness program is a critical part of that effort.
A wellness program provides a “down payment” on your good-faith, and can reduce the impact of any injury that occurs. Workers with chronic health conditions are more prone to injury, and they can take longer to recover. An effective workplace wellness program, like the ones we offer at GoHealthNow, will lay the groundwork for a quicker recovery for that employee who, despite the best employee safety program, misses that last step and ends up in the emergency department with a bad sprain.
After an Injury: Let Them Know You Care
In the post-injury avalanche of workers’ compensation paperwork, medical and legal jargon, and measures aimed at protecting the employer (like post-accident drug testing), injured workers can feel as if they have instantly gone from “valued member of the team” to “disposable liability.” If the only things they hear from supervisors are procedural and legal in nature, they may begin to feel that their employer doesn’t care about them.
That’s bad for employees, who are prone to depression after an injury, it may reduce their productivity and their ability to participate in the family and recreational activities. It can prolong their recovery time and reduce the chances that they’ll ever come back to work. One analysis of workers’ compensation claims found that claims costs and the chance that an injured worker will sue the employer both increase when workers are experience fear or anxiety.
It can affect the entire workplace. When workers feel that the employer no longer cares about an employee who has been injured, their morale is impacted: what if it’s me next time? When morale is low, productivity goes down and injury and illness rates go up.
Fortunately, the fix is straightforward: communication. Initiating friendly communication with workers following an injury – just letting them know you care – can reduce injury rates and lost time due to injuries. Consider including the following communication strategies:
- Send a get-well card. A friendly and cheerful gesture that lets an injured worker know you are thinking about them – and that they can look at over and over – can really cheer them up. Have all of their co-workers sign the card, and if possible, hand-deliver it.
- Contact them every day. When a supervisor makes a daily effort to contact the injured worker – by phone, email, text message, or in person — it reduces recovery time and increases the odds that the worker will return to work full time. For a bigger impact, do more than just say “Hi, how ya doin?” Make an effort to put workers in touch with resources that will help them recover – for example, by highlighting resources available through your workplace wellness program like educational articles or telehealth sessions with medical professionals.
- Be accommodating. The fastest way to get an injured employee back on the job is to accommodate any limitations during their recovery. Again, your wellness program can be part of this, by providing additional resources to improve workers’ overall physical condition and emotional well-being. Providing job accommodations improves the odds that workers will recover, reducing overall claims durations and costs. It also improves the injured worker’s morale, and that of the entire workforce, when they see the company stand by its commitment to them.
Establishing an ‘always on’ company culture of health and wellness can help prevent workplace injuries and also reduce the impact on injured workers and their coworkers. Robust wellness programs, like the GoHealthNow platform, support employees in achieving better health while reducing worker’s compensation costs. Contact us today for a demo and to learn how GoHealthNow can benefit your organization.