10. Generalized anxiety disorder: Characterized by severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with daily activities. Within the U.S., 27% of workers say they struggle with depression or anxiety most days or a few times a week. Untreated and without early intervention, this can lead to short- term disability or prolonged absence.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence?
Help break down the stigma surrounding anxiety and mental health disorders while fostering an open and inclusive work environment that encourages dialogue about mental health. Encourage employees to connect with Employee Assistance Program (EAPs) and other mental health resources, including referrals to community resources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
. Consider flexible schedules and time-off packages.
9. Shoulder sprain: Occurs when a supporting ligament is overly stretched or torn, potentially allowing the bones within the joint to become unstable. The Hartford’s claims data shows this injury is more common in younger employees, with 64% of absences from workers under the age of 50.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Depending on the type of job, a physical ability test can assess a worker’s ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job. Consider assisted devices for pushing, pulling and lifting activities.
8. Lumbar sprain: An injury to the low back resulting in damaged tendons and muscles that can spasm and feel sore. This is a common injury and can occur suddenly or gradually due to overuse. Eighty four percent of these injuries occur in medium-heavy duty occupations.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Utilize workplace lifting programs and consider assistive lifting technologies when occupational demands are in the medium to heavy range. Normalize activities like stretching or warm-ups to prepare for periods of increased physical demand. Suggest that employees get post offer evaluation testing (POET), which can provide a detailed history and physical examination that may identify risks or confirm that they have a proper level of physical health that fits the job demands. Fit-for-duty evaluations are typically done prior to returning to work at a previous level of functional demand and can be an essential part of a workplace safety program.
7. Hernia: The abnormal exit of tissue or an organ through the wall of the cavity in which it normally resides. Hernias can be a result of improper lifting. If someone has had a previous hernia, they are more susceptible to it occurring again.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Consider a fit-for-duty program. Proper ergonomics can help, and wellness programs for things like smoking cessation and weight management can be important. Research shows a strong connection between smoking and poor tissue strength.
6. Carpal tunnel syndrome: Described as numbness, tingling or weakness in the hand due to pressure on the median nerve. Many factors can cause this condition, but a big factor is forceful gripping and grasping combined with repetitive motion activities. This condition is often difficult to properly diagnose.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Proper ergonomics and adjustable desks and chairs
can help prevent injury and return an employee back to work faster. Consider job modifications for work that requires a lot of forceful gripping and grasping activities with high repetition.
5. Radiculopathy: Categorized as the pinching of a nerve root in the spinal column. Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness and tingling. This condition is difficult to treat once someone has it. Employees and employers should focus on prevention.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Proper physical conditioning and ergonomics can help. Consider implementation of stretching and yoga programs to promote flexibility.
4. Rotator cuff syndrome: This occurs when the rotator cuff becomes irritated or damaged, resulting in pain, weakness and a reduced range of motion. This condition has many causes, including improper reaching and lifting. Nearly 70% of The Hartford’s claims for this condition are people over the age of 50.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Implement proper lifting programs and encourage movement, as well as assistive lifting wearables for work that involves high amounts of overhead activities.
3. Low back pain: Pain, muscle tension or stiffness in the lower back area. The diagnosis of pain is often used in the medical community as a placeholder when there’s not yet a clear reason because pain is more accurately considered a symptom. In 2020, 41% of workers’ compensation low back injuries occurred within the worker’s first year of employment.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Similar to lumbar sprains, proper physical conditioning evaluations and lifting programs can be key. Ensure proper ergonomics are followed.
2. Joint pain: Overly stretched or torn ligament, potentially allowing the bones within the joint to become unstable. This is another diagnosis often used until a proper diagnosis can be determined. The Hartford’s claims data shows this occurs evenly between both men and women.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Consider offering gym memberships and wellness programs to promote overall health. Normalize warm-up stretching prior to a shift and before high-demand work tasks – offer proper time and space to do so.
1. Meniscal tear: Damage to the c-shaped cartilage between the tibia and femur in the knee. This is one of the most common injuries causing workplace absences and occurs more frequently in men.
What can employers do to help mitigate an absence? Promote overall health and wellness programs for your employees. Consider modification of work activities that may require pivoting that could cause torquing of the knee joint. Proper physical conditioning can also be key. As with other injuries, consider offering a time and place to stretch and warm up before a shift.
Despite best efforts, injuries and absences happen. Early findings from The Hartford’s data show a correlation between manager-employee communication and a faster return to work. We are still studying this, but the bottom line is, employers can encourage managers to stay in touch with employees on leave, conveying messages of empathy and hope.
* Analysis includes The Hartford’s 2020 Short-term Disability and Workers’ Compensation Claim data, excluding pregnancy and COVID-19 claims. A cross-functional team including medical and analytics experts reviewed the data to determine the most frequently occurring absences that could potentially be impacted and/or prevented by employers and employees.
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