The Social and Psychological Impact of Injuries at Work
After a workplace injury, the hurdles to recovery that an employee faces can go beyond the physical injury or illness. A delayed return to work may not always be a factor of the severity of the injury. Taking a personalized approach to helping injured employees that goes beyond addressing their physical issues can help reduce costs, save time, and improve the path to recovery.
"Looking at social and psychological 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," said Rich Ives, Vice President, Workers Compensation Claim at Constitution State Services (CSS). "Considering these other issues can help remove barriers to recovery."
When talking with an employer, CSS 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. Rather than dwelling on the physical condition itself, CSS works with employers to focus on how that individual can once again be a viable part of the organization.
Injured employees may struggle with the effects of worklessness— a condition resulting from time away from work that can lead to mental health issues and decreased life expectancies. Worklessness is often characterized by feelings of loneliness and anxiety as affected employees gradually disengage from their employers.
To combat a sense of isolation, communication between employers and injured employees can help bridge the disconnect workers feel when they spend weeks or months away from the job. The path to recovery is often clearer when affected individuals have an advocate in the company. "By focusing on what they are able to do, rather than their pain or limitations, conversations about returning to work can help injured employees stay engaged and look forward," Ives said.
Psychosocial Risk Factors
Being away from work can stir up many emotions in injured employees, including fear, which can be a powerful risk factor and a barrier to returning to work. 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 being treated unfairly or differently because they've had an injury.
Here are three psychosocial factors can complicate recovery. By identifying them, Claim professionals can help find the right resources for injured employees.
- Catastrophic thinking. This type of thinking is characterized by an employee believing their situation will hit an absolute bottom. This feeling might be exemplified by an individual expecting that the injury will lead to permanent joblessness and irreparably damage personal and professional relationships.
- Perceived injustice. The injured employee might push the blame for their mishap onto someone or something else, even if the facts of the case prove otherwise.
- Maladaptive coping. An employee who has been away from the job for a prolonged time period may not possess the right skill set to realize a smooth transition back to work. They may require assistance with staying organized or focusing on long-term objectives.
Removing Barriers to Recovery
The following three strategies that can help your organization view an employee through a holistic lens. These services can also help identify and remove roadblocks to a quick return to health and work. Here are three ways to identify potential barriers and help employees develop strategies to recovery and return to work.
1. Building Connections Through Virtual Services
Post-injury rehabilitation can involve physical and/or occupational therapy, and the demands of those programs may be intimidating at first. Making a personal connection between an injured employee and a dedicated nurse case manager can help overcome obstacles so employees can fully engage with their prescribed course of exercise and treatment. Making a virtual connection with a dedicated nurse case manager can help injured employees have a one-on-one connection between nurse and patient.
2. Cultural Understanding
Navigating the healthcare system can be challenging on its own. Having to understand diagnoses, treatment protocols, and medical terminology may be even more challenging for employees from different cultures or who speak different languages. Missed appointments and medications can be reasons that injured employees have a delayed recovery. Bridging language barriers through the claim process by staffing culturally aligned professionals can help answer questions from injured employees.
3. Proactively Engaging: The Travelers Early Severity Predictor®
Predictive models such as the Early Severity Predictor can identify individuals that may be at risk of developing chronic pain. This predictive model allows our 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, which are linked to addiction and can delay recovery and an employee's return to work.
Working with Constitution State Services
At CSS, we know that clear, reliable communication is a critical component of the claim process. Our Claim professionals are committed to responding quickly to each claim, and to treating each injured employee with empathy, flexibility and personal attention. Throughout the claim process, dedicated relationship managers ensure smooth communications that can help address psychological and emotional barriers as well as physical ones.
Learn more about our workers compensation claim management services.
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