The longer an injured worker is out of work, the less likely he is ever to return. Statistics show an employee who is out of work for 6 months has only a 50 percent likelihood of going back, and the number increases exponentially after that. There are many reasons this occurs.
Being out of the work environment means losing touch — with colleagues, the daily routine, and the feeling of being productive, which for many, is vitally important to maintain a sense of self-worth. Depression and frustration, not to mention pain, can set in and quickly turn to anger.
Instead of focusing on the recovery process, injured workers who are out for long periods of time may turn their attention to retaliation. Instead of thinking about healing and returning to their pre-injury normal lives, these workers may instead start to embrace their ‘new normal’ lives. They develop a disability mindset and start to direct their energies to ways they can stay permanently out of the workforce.
Work as Therapy
There is a plethora of research that demonstrates returning to the workforce in some capacity increases the worker’s engagement in the recovery process, and improves his emotional and physical health. But many organizations either don’t subscribe to this idea, or they are unable to accommodate these employees.
Too many employers have the attitude that they don’t want an injured worker back unless they are 100 percent recovered and fully able to completely step back into their position. Unfortunately for these employers, statistics bear out the fact that returning workers in some capacity leads to better outcomes and saves money for the employer.
In some cases, it’s difficult or even impossible to find modified or light-duty work for the injured employee at the worksite, due to the nature of the work and/or the worker’s injuries. One solution that wise organizations are taking is to partner with nonprofit and charitable organizations. Employers that take this approach see their injured workers recover within the expected timeframe and back at work, saving them unnecessary costs and headaches.
Case Study: (Provided by Broadspire): $5,000 in Savings From Non-Profit Return to Work Option
A worker who sustained multiple wrist injuries from an occupational accident had an extended recovery. His employer was able to provide him with light-duty work — for a while. However, when the employee needed a third and final surgery, his company could no longer accommodate him.
A Broadspire field case manager quickly noticed the injured worker was becoming depressed. The situation could have easily and quickly spiraled downward.
Broadspire’s ‘Worker on Loan’ program is designed for exactly this type of situation, where an injured worker’s employer has no opportunity for light-duty work. After the field case nurse reported the injured worker’s situation, the Broadspire adjuster contacted the employer who agreed to try the Worker on Loan Program.
In this instance, Habit for Humanity was able to provide work for the injured worker. It turned out to be a great fit, as the employee’s former job was in construction. The field case manager soon reported that the worker’s mood improved significantly. Once he started working with the revered organization, he was able to feel productive and help others.
This case perfectly illustrates the value of work as a viable response to an injury. Instead of going into a deep depression and staying out of work indefinitely, this injured worker was actually able to return to full-duty at his normal job — nine weeks earlier than planned! The result was a win-win for the injured worker, the employer, and Habit for Humanity, which got the benefit of his expertise.
Total Savings = $5,000
Keeping an injured worker engaged with the workforce is vital to achieving the best outcomes. Collaborating with nonprofits is a perfect answer for companies that understand this but may not have light-duty options available.
Author Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.
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