Stress in the Workplace – How stress can affect your worker’s compensation program

Stress may not always be visible, but its effects on injured employees and your bottom line are real enough to warrant a closer look.

Stress can affect anyone at any time, but workers with an existing injury are particularly vulnerable. Beyond anxiety and fatigue, stress can extend healing time for injured workers and exacerbate physical symptoms such as headaches and body aches, frequent colds and infections, even chest pain and rapid heartbeat.

Stress can also complicate pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, work related injuries and more.

Whether stress is a contributing factor to a claim, or the result of injury or a physical condition, employers are increasingly working to save money and improve outcomes by helping employees manage stress.

The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs American businesses some $300 billion every year in lost productivity and increased health care costs. It’s the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for all jobs, according to a 2011 Absence Management Survey.

Employer responses don’t have to involve large monetary investments or high-tech solutions. Three tips that can help your employees shake off stress and return to work happy and healthy include the following:

  • Begin communicating right after an accident occurs:  Establishing regular contact with the employee can help make the employee feel connected to the workplace, reducing stress and anxiety about their work life. And it can help you determine how they’re healing and prepare them for return duty. And, as noted here employees in regular contact with their workplace are less likely to seek out legal help on claims.
     
  • Organize a return-to-work committee: Establishing one or two people on-site responsible for developing and implementing return-to-work plans not only provides a visible commitment to helping employees successfully navigate the transition back, but also provides a central contact for employees to go to with questions.

    The committee can flag any potential problems they spot in their conversations with injured employees, and also can establish a communication protocol following an accident to keep everyone on the same page.

     

  • Structure stress-free moments in high-pressure times: Every workplace can be stressful at times, but sometimes you can see it coming. Big sale weekend? Heavy service cycles? All of it can add up to high pressure for your employees. 
Consider establishing five-minute quiet zones, or other social pressure breakers that will allow your employees to take short breaks from the chaos throughout the day. Even five minutes of slow, focused breathing can calm stress responses and clear the mind.