The Impact of Injury: Understand Your Worker’s New Reality

The Impact of Injury: Understand Your Worker’s New Reality

When a disabling injury throws off an employee’s routine, here are the three most important things an employer can do to best support them.
Adele Spallone
Adele Spallone, Head of Clinical Operations for Workers’ Compensation and Group Benefits at The Hartford
Allison Scaia
Allison Scaia, Head of Health Services at The Hartford
The day everything stopped for Sandra was a beautiful spring afternoon – perfect weather for a quick bike ride on her lunch break. But then, a tumble on loose gravel derailed those plans, and so much more.
A badly broken arm and a bruised body would keep her out of work for at least two months. A stabilizing sling and rest helped the bone heal. However, the potential mental health impact of what happened, coupled with the uncertainty about whether her claim would be deemed work-related, posed yet another hurdle for Sandra to overcome. Her journey to recovery and return to work slowed down.
“Trauma impacts not only the person physically, but also psychologically,” says Adele Spallone, head of clinical operations for Workers’ Compensation and Group Benefits at The Hartford. “After the initial and sudden shock of the injury, people can be confused, depressed and feel overwhelmed in taking care of themselves physically and emotionally.”
People can experience loss of control when their routine is suddenly gone, says Spallone, a licensed mental health counselor and family therapist. Spallone oversees a team of nurses and vocational and behavioral health specialists who help support workers out on disability or workers’ compensation leaves of absence. For some people, their well-being can be closely tied to their job. People who feel they have meaningful jobs miss it when they are out. Lacking that connection and routine, even for a short time, can affect their mental health, she says.
In addition to the anxiety that can be felt when an employee is injured and can’t work, there’s also potential stress from a difficult claim experience.
“There is an added level of worry and frustration that can occur when an injury happens and the corresponding claim is bounced back and forth between workers’ compensation and disability,” shares Allison Scaia, head of health services at The Hartford. “It’s an immense benefit for the employee in their time of need and their employer to have a single insurance carrier than can seamlessly work across employee benefits and Workers’ Compensation, streamlining the claims experience to not only make it easier for everyone but also ensure that the right coverages or benefits are considered.”
An overwhelming claim experience can lead to confusion and potential delays in payments. When compounded with physical injuries from a painful accident, the process can cause more damage and make recovery even more difficult. The risks, Spallone says, are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance misuse, poor eating and withdrawing from friends and family.

A Benefits Approach To Help Soften a Hard Landing

Fortunately for Sandra, her employer included short-term disability insurance in its employee benefits package. The benefit didn’t sit on a static checklist. Management routinely communicated with company-wide reminders of their benefits with easy-to-understand guidance on when and how to use it. Conveniently, they also had their short-term disability, leave management and workers’ compensation with the same insurance carrier. From the time her claim was reported, the carrier streamlined the entire process for both Sandra and her employer. Once her claim was reviewed and determined not to be work-related, the disability claim was auto-initiated, eliminating the need for Sandra to take any additional steps. Her corresponding leave of absence was set up for her as well, seamlessly ensuring she was protected during her recovery and reducing regulatory risks for her employer.
The bottom line for Sandra was, well, the bottom line. Knowing that disability insurance would provide income while she was off the job and the time to heal helped head off some unnecessary worry. A simple and pain-free claim experience allowed her to focus on what really mattered: her well-being. 
Regular check-ins with that injured employee can help management understand where that worker is physically and mentally. Employers should be prepared to refer the worker to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or community resources, Spallone says.
“It’s incredibly important to listen and validate their feelings,” Spallone says. “And when they return, give them the flexibility they need to attend medical appointments or physical therapy. It helps them readjust to the work routine as they continue to recover.”

The Path Back to Wellness: Optimism and Benefit Awareness

After a serious accident, Spallone says keeping a positive attitude is among the keys to recovery and returning to work. Other healthy coping mechanisms are:
  • Talking to the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a mental health professional
  • Giving yourself permission to talk about feelings you’re experiencing
  • Within limits, staying as active as physically possible
  • Participating in self-care activities, like meditation, deep breathing or journal writing
Well-informed employees can be their own best advocates. If an employer is providing benefits education, take the time to understand everything available. When or if the unexpected happens, it’s knowledge put to good use.
Read more about how to retain employees out on a disability leave and learn about our connected claim offerings that support employees when they need it most.
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The Hartford Staff
The Hartford Staff
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