At the 2017 WCRI Annual Issues and Research Conference, Bogdan Savych of WCRI and Glenn Pransky of Liberty Mutual Research institute for Safety talked about the importance of worker perceptions and communications its injured workers.
WCRI presented research on their worker outcome surveys. WCRI started injured worker surveys because the voice of injured workers is often missing from discussions about how workers’ compensation needs to improve.
WCRI studies show many factors that impact return to work. But the factor they focused on for these surveys was trust of the workplace. Examples:
- Among workers who had worst claim outcomes, 48% stated they had strong fear of being fired due to the workplace injury.
- Those more concerned about being fired from the workplace retained more attorneys.
- These studies suggest a need to focus on communications between employers and workers.
- Back in mid 1990s, a study of back injury cases in New Hampshire showed a strong correlation between prolonged disability and the injured worker feeling their supervisor was negative and unsupportive.
- Some of the words we use can have very negative impacts on the message. In our industry we use words like claimant, adjudication, pending investigation, etc which focus on conflict and the process, ignoring the person who actually had the claim.
- Another study found that when the claims handler expressed empathy, engaged in active listening skills and took the time to explain benefits that claim outcomes were improved.
- Simply asking the worker “do you feel you will be able to return to your regular job without restrictions in 4 weeks” is an excellent predictor of disability duration. If the injured worker says “no” they are usually correct.
- If you do not have company policy and practices aligned with messaging you will not get positive messaging from supervisors. Company culture starts at the top.
- The medical providers and case managers also can have a significant impact on the claims outcomes. These are among the many other factors which need to be considered.