National Stress Awareness Month: Workers’ Compensation

Stress Awareness

April marks National Stress Awareness Month, emphasizing the significance of recognizing the effects of stress on mental and physical health. According to OSHA, around 83% of American employees experience work-related stress. This stress can disrupt business activities by heightening the risk of workplace incidents, lowering productivity, raising absenteeism, and diminishing morale. Let us delve further into this important issue.

Is Stress Covered By Workers' Compensation?

Workers’ Compensation is designed to be the sole remedy for covering medical expenses and lost income resulting from work-related injuries or illnesses. When it comes to deciding if benefits cover stress and mental health-related claims, the most common response is usually “it depends.” For an employee to claim Workers’ Compensation due to stress, their job must be the direct cause of their injury or illness. Mental health issues covered by Workers’ Compensation policies may encompass stress, depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with each claim reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Unlike physical injuries that are easier to validate, work-related stress injuries can be more challenging to prove. Any claim of mental health injury would need to be severe enough to prevent an employee from performing routine job functions. Further, proof would be needed to confirm the job and job functions caused the anxiety or stress in question. Sometimes this can be hard to distinguish between work and ordinary life pressures.

How To Reduce Stress In The Workplace?

In recent years, the challenges have been significant for all, particularly with recovery from the pandemic and shifts in the workforce. Employers should create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their stress levels. Encourage them to report their stress, document incidents, and have colleagues provide detailed accounts including dates, times, attendees, conversations, and actions taken.

For assistance, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers resources for Senior Managers and Front-Line Supervisors to start addressing workplace stress effectively. It is essential to assess the programs and resources provided by your company to alleviate work-related stress. Here are some typical strategies you can introduce to minimize the likelihood of stress-related Workers’ Compensation claims:

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a workplace benefit that provides employees with free and confidential assessments, counseling, and referrals for personal or work-related challenges. These services can be accessed in person or virtually, with some offering support around the clock. EAPs are increasingly favored due to research showing a link between employees’ mental well-being and job performance. By aiding employees in addressing personal issues, employers witness enhancements in workplace efficiency, productivity, and engagement.

Flexible Work Arrangements
Offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, can empower employees to better manage their time and responsibilities, ultimately reducing stress levels and increasing job satisfaction. By allowing employees the flexibility to choose how and where they work, employers can create a more conducive and comfortable work environment.

Remote work options, for instance, can eliminate long commutes, providing individuals with more time for themselves and their families. Flexible hours allow employees to attend to personal matters without sacrificing their professional obligations. This level of autonomy can lead to higher productivity as individuals can work during their most productive hours. Moreover, offering such work arrangements demonstrates trust in employees, which can boost morale and loyalty. It shows that employers understand the importance of work-life balance and are committed to supporting their staff’s well-being. By prioritizing the needs of their employees, companies can cultivate a positive and efficient work culture where individuals feel valued and motivated to perform at their best.

Wellness Programs
Promoting a culture of well-being within the workplace not only boosts employee morale but also enhances productivity and overall job satisfaction. By offering resources and support that cater to various aspects of wellness, such as fitness classes, mental health resources, financial planning workshops, and team-building activities, companies can create a nurturing, stress-free environment where employees feel valued and supported.

Encouraging a healthy work-life balance and providing tools for personal growth and development can lead to increased engagement and loyalty among team members. When employees feel cared for and supported in all areas of their lives, they are more likely to bring their best selves to work each day, fostering a positive and collaborative work environment. In the end, investing in employee wellness is an investment in the success and longevity of the organization as a whole.

Communication and Culture
Encouraging open communication is crucial for establishing a positive work atmosphere. Offering chances for employees to voice their concerns, seek clarification, and provide feedback can lower stress levels and enhance team cohesion. If you don’t already have one, consider initiating an employee recognition program. Acknowledging the efforts and achievements of team members publicly can reduce stress and strengthen bonds within the team. Whether through formal recognition systems or heartfelt handwritten notes, the key is to integrate it consistently into the workplace culture.

Safeguarding Against Stress

By prioritizing employee well-being and implementing these strategies, businesses can cultivate a positive work culture that not only reduces claims but also supports the mental and physical health of their workforce. Contact a member of our Sentinel team today to discover how to create a comprehensive employee benefits package and receive support in all aspects of risk management.

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About The Author

With over 20 years of experience in the Workers’ Compensation arena, Jayme has amassed an impressive array of skills and expertise during her years working directly with carriers and on national accounts.

Jayme brings an elite acumen to the art and science of Workers’ Compensation, an area of specialty that requires a compassionate approach.

She began her career in the health care field, as a therapeutic recreational specialist helping dangerously ill children and stroke victims. She later transitioned to the insurance field, and quickly carved out a niche for herself managing Workers’ Compensation claims and programs.

Co-Author: Rachel Seither | Director of Client Services, Employee Benefits