If you knew that you had the power to change somebody’s life and save your company thousands of dollars with a simple phone call or email, could you find the time to do it?
Staying in touch with injured employees is a simple way to express compassion and lift their spirits. It’s also a proven method to bring about better claim outcomes. In fact, in a recent survey, SFM claims professionals ranked it as one of their top recommendations to bring about a timely return to work.
A phone call from the supervisor to check in and see how they’re doing a day or two after the incident, and then every once in a while thereafter can literally make the difference between a simple lost-time claim and a litigated, ongoing lost-time claim, said SFM Claims Representative Jessica Amb.
By contrast, when injured workers lose touch with their employers, there’s often a loss of self-esteem and motivation to return to work.
“They go from feeling like a valued employee prior to the work injury to feeling like no one actually cares about them after they are injured,” Amb said.
Silence speaks volumes
Some supervisors avoid reaching out because they worry that they might say the wrong thing. But the surest way to deliver the wrong message is to say nothing at all.
Reaching out to injured workers gives you the chance to say the things that will reassure them. Making it clear that their job is safe tells them that they don’t need to be concerned about losing their livelihood. Telling them that you’re on their side and you support their recovery can prevent feelings of guilt or resentment over the injury. The mere words “we’re thinking about you” can go a long way toward reminding them they’re not in it alone.
Failing to connect with injured employees invites them to draw their own conclusions, which often prove to be detrimental to their recovery. With each positive comment you give an injured worker, you can prevent him or her from experiencing unnecessary stress.
Seek to eliminate anxiety and confusion
Be aware that injured employees are likely to have a lot on their minds. In addition to the physical injuries they’re suffering from, there are likely to be feelings of isolation and fear over job security. The more you do to assuage their worries, the more you can help them focus on getting back to full health and productivity.
When it comes to starting the conversation, let compassion be your guide. The simplest place to begin is to ask yourself: “If I were in the injured worker’s shoes, what would I need to hear to set my mind at ease and concentrate on my recovery?”
“When the employer expresses genuine concern for the injured employee on a human level, that employee is generally going to be more motivated to return to work, and less likely to get an attorney,” Amb said.
Contact can keep the claim out of court
When injured workers feel disconnected, it tends to increase anxiety and decrease their trust in the employer. The longer they go without hearing from you, the more likely it gets that they will try to get back into the loop by contacting an attorney.
Involving attorneys in work comp cases introduces additional claim costs that can drive the employer premiums up in the future. Injured employees tend to seek out attorneys when they feel that their livelihoods are in jeopardy. Every step you can take to reassure an injured worker that his or her job is safe reduces the chances of attorney involvement and increases the chances of a timely return to work.
“Often, litigation is a reflection of feeling ignored,” said SFM Senior Defense Counsel Kathy Bray. “It can be stressful for an employee to suffer an injury and then hear nothing from the employer. An attorney would be happy to make time to listen to an injured employee, if the employer does not.”
According to a recent article from the Workers’ Comp Resource Center, “The best way an employer can prevent an injured employee from obtaining an attorney, and the unnecessary claim cost that drives the employer’s premiums higher, is to maintain contact with the employee after the accident.”
Making sure the employee doesn’t have any unanswered questions will help you eliminate roadblocks to their recovery and return to work. If questions come up that you can’t answer, offer to follow up with your human resources department or your SFM claims representative.
Keep it simple
You don’t need to make a formally scheduled visit or call in order to make a big difference. Even the smallest gesture can go a long way to remind the absent employee that he or she is on your mind. You can keep the lines of communication open with emails, cards, or even text messages. Don’t underestimate the impact that even the small gestures of compassion from a supervisor can have on an employee’s disposition.
Staying in touch with your injured employees is as simple as it sounds. In addition to being the right thing to do, it’s one of the best investments you can make to improve outcomes and eliminate claim costs.