The Psychological and Social Impact of Work-Related Injuries
A personalized approach to helping injured employees that goes beyond physical issues can help reduce costs and improve the path to recovery. Looking at psychological and social factors affecting an individual can help identify potential challenges, such as anxiety or fear of reinjury, that may delay an employee’s return to work.
“Delayed recovery is not always a factor of the severity of the injury,” said Rich Ives, Vice President, Workers Compensation Claim at Travelers. “We need to consider other issues in injured employees’ lives to better help them overcome these potential barriers.”
Preventing delayed recovery from workplace injuries can help employees avoid a long-term break from employment. Extended breaks from work – sometimes referred to as worklessness – are associated with a host of negative health consequences, including poor health outcomes, increased risk of mental health conditions and decreased life expectancy. Helping injured employees reduce the risks of worklessness has benefits for the employee, their employer and the community.
“Worklessness is not just a financial or a social issue, it’s a health and wellness issue,” said Ives. “There are fairly serious health consequences of not feeling productive and engaged in the community.”
When talking with an employer, Travelers Claim professionals discuss the importance of maintaining contact with the injured employee, checking on how they are feeling and setting up a modified duty program as they recover. By focusing on what they can do, rather than on their pain or limitations, conversations about returning to work can help injured employees stay engaged and look forward. “It can go a long way to helping influence a positive mindset to reduce the fear and isolation that they may be feeling as a result of their injury,” Ives said.
Psychosocial Risk Factors
Increased empathy and active listening can help establish a connection with an injured employee and help uncover factors that might delay their return to work. These could include fear of losing a job or being treated unfairly or differently because they’ve had an injury.
“Fear is a powerful risk factor, and a barrier to returning to work that we need to help reduce,” Ives said. “We need to remember that the employee at the other end of the phone might have any number of fears.”
Ives describes three psychosocial factors that can complicate recovery. Identifying them can help Claim professionals find the right resources to help injured employees.
- Catastrophic thinking. If an injured employee expects the worst-case scenario to happen, it can take over their thinking. For example, they may believe that their back injury will lead to job loss and becoming homeless.
- Perceived injustice. An injured employee may feel that someone or something else caused their misfortune, whether or not the facts support that belief.
- Maladaptive coping. An individual off work for several months due to an injury, who lacks certain adaptive skills, such as optimism, resilience or goal-setting, might need help keeping a schedule during their transition back to work.
Dr. Marcos Iglesias discusses ways to support employees’ physical and emotional well-being as they return to post-COVID-19 workplaces.Watch the video
Removing Barriers to Recovery
Here are three ways that Travelers is helping to understand the whole person, identify potential barriers and help employees develop strategies to recovery and return to work.
1. Building Connections: The Virtual Concierge Service
Fear of pain or getting reinjured could keep injured workers from practicing the physical therapy exercises prescribed to help them recover their full range of motion. While not directly related to the injury, that fear-caused avoidance could lead to a deconditioning of muscle tone and a loss of range of motion. This could further complicate recovery and, as a result, threaten the worker’s ability to return to work.
Working with a dedicated nurse case manager can help injured employees have a one-on-one connection between nurse and injured employee. Travelers' virtual concierge service includes virtual visits and nurses who can help guide injured employees on what to expect from medical treatment as they recover from their injury and discuss potential fears they might have. A one-on-one connection between nurse and injured employee pioneered by the Travelers ConciergeCLAIM® Nurse program, is helping injured employees find access to quality healthcare, stay engaged in the workforce and return to work as soon as medically appropriate.¹
2. Fostering Employee Health and Well-Being: Travelers Workforce Advantage®
A safe and engaged workforce and a healthy workplace can go hand in hand with helping build employee resilience. In the Travelers Workforce Advantage model, we provide resources to help support and engage employees in workplace safety at the beginning of, and throughout, their career. As part of this model, we encourage the implementation of wellness programs that can help employees adopt a healthier lifestyle both in the workplace and at home. A wellness program can not only help to improve overall well-being, but may also aid in increasing productivity and employee engagement.
3. Proactively Engaging: The Early Severity Predictor®
Chronic pain claims have become more prevalent in recent years, with over 20% of American adults suffering from chronic pain.2 Knowing the signs that indicate someone may be at risk of developing chronic pain means that steps can be taken in advance to help injured employees avoid the dangers of opioid addiction, since opioids are often prescribed to treat persistent pain. This, in turn, can help companies reduce growing workers compensation loss costs.
The Travelers Early Severity Predictor is a predictive model that can identify whether an injured employee is likely to develop chronic pain. This allows Travelers’ nurses to intervene early, working with individuals on a sports medicine-like approach to treat their illness and help reduce the likelihood that they will be prescribed opioid drugs. Opioids are linked to addiction and can delay recovery and an employee’s return to work.
Working With Travelers
Travelers helps injured employees return to work sooner with the ConciergeCLAIM® Nurse program, which has been shown to reduce days out of work by nearly 10%.3 Travelers ConciergeCLAIM nurses can provide an injured employee with a better understanding of the claim process and an explanation of next steps, leading to a better claim outcome.
Talk to an agent to learn more.
1 Based on a comparison of Travelers ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims to non-ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims for accident years 2015 to 2018.
3 Based on a comparison of Travelers ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims to non-ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims for accident years 2015 to 2018.
More Prepare & Prevent
Managers and supervisors can recognize signs of distress in employees and provide resources to help them manage their stress in a post COVID-19 workplace.
Creating a safety culture in the workplace can help keep employees safe and prevent workplace accidents.