Health & Wellness in the Workplace
Employer-sponsored health and wellness programs are a fast-growing trend for workplace benefits. These programs come in all shapes and sizes. They often lead to a healthier, happier and more productive work environment.
Health and wellness programs don’t have to be complex. A wellness program is defined as any employer program that strives to improve their employee’s health. That leaves plenty of room for each business to design a program that fits their needs.
In some cases, employee wellness programs can even pay for themselves. Over time, they can save you money by reducing the amount of injured workers at your business. For instance, wellness programs can reduce repetitive strain injuries. This can lead to fewer workers’ comp claims. With fewer claims against you, you’ll not only save money. You’ll also avoid the costs of seeking out legal representation and legal advice in the event a lawsuit is filed against your business.
In addition to helping reduce the occurrence and cost of workplace injuries, benefits of employee wellness programs also include:
- Fewer sick days
- Weight reduction
- Improved physical fitness
- Improved disease management
- Mental health improvements
All of these factors can contribute to a reduction in workers’ compensation claims. This is especially true for mental health conditions.
At first glance, mental health may seem unrelated to workers’ comp. However, workers’ compensation for mental health claims do exist. And workers’ compensation for stress-related claims also exist.
Starting a wellness program can help you catch certain symptoms in your employees before they manifest into bigger problems. For instance, you’ll likely be able to identify stress at work, as well as depression.
Workers' Compensation for Stress & Mental Health
Workplace wellness programs should include more than initiatives around physical health. Mental health is just as important. If it’s not treated seriously, it can result in increased absenteeism. It may even result in workers’ comp claims.
To receive workers’ comp, an employee’s injury or illness must be caused by their job. Over a period of time, some employees may suffer from a mental health issue caused by work. These are the types of mental health injuries that may be covered through a workers’ comp policy:
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Integrating mental health in employee wellness programs encourages employees to:
- Assess their emotional health
- Improve their mental health
These programs also help you, the employer, to identify the warning signs of mental illness in your employees.
Here are some mental health components you might consider adding to your wellness program:
- Employee assistance programs (EAP). EAPs are useful for providing referrals to mental health professionals.
- Afterwork exercise programs. Exercise programs are a great way to combat stress-related symptoms. Exercise decreases stress, which can help prevent employee burnout and depression. Aside from mental health, encouraging employees to be physically active has benefits as well. For instance, it can help fight obesity.
- Education sessions. These sessions provide mental-health-related information. This can include information around finding a therapist or overcoming negativity. Although this can be a great workplace wellness tool, it can also be challenging to implement. This is because when employees feel embarrassed, they may not attend. Mental health topics are often stigmatized. It’s not unusual for those struggling with mental health to have feelings of shame around them. It’s important that you work to de-stigmatize these issues. You want to create a safe work environment before offering educational sessions.
- Birthday vacation days. Spending some time away from work can go a long way towards recharging your mental health. One option for encouraging this is to start a paid time off program for employee birthdays. This is a great way to show employees they’re appreciated.
- Pet policies. Studies suggest that there are benefits to having pets in the office. These benefits include stress reduction and emotional support. Research has even indicated that pets can buffer stress levels better than close friends or spouses. Other studies have found a correlation between lower-stress responses and the presence of dogs in the workplace.1
- Game room. Having a room or area where employees can go to let off steam is a great way to encourage workplace positivity. In fact, activity areas are becoming more common. They range from cozy lounges to a full-fledged game room.
Risks of Workplace Wellness Programs
There are certain risks with adding mental health to wellness programs. At first, you may notice low participation in your program. This occurs because employees may feel like the program decreases their privacy.2
Mitigating that risk can take many forms. Strategies your business should take include:
- Showing employees that your company has an interest in mental health.
- Having your organizational leaders address mental health publicly.
Both of these strategies show your employees that you’re serious about mental health. They can also help decrease an employee’s fear of getting singled out.3
As you start addressing mental health, be aware of sensitivity to the subject. Mental health is a highly personal topic. Rules of engagement for both educational and therapeutic sessions should be clearly defined. Creating an environment that feels safe is critical. It will ensure the success of your mental health wellness program.4
Your company might also see an increase in healthcare costs associated with mental health services. While these expenses may seem like a burden, they’re not. In fact, they actually cost less than hospital stays or missed days of work.5
While there are some risks, employee wellness programs have a bright future. They can help prevent significant employee health issues through early detection and intervention. Including mental health in wellness programs also allows you to address both the physical and psychological health of your workers.6
Workers' Compensation Claims for Mental Health
Workers’ compensation claims for mental-health-related injuries can be difficult to prove. Associating a mental illness with work-related causes is often more complicated than a physical injury. Your employee will have to establish a direct link between their symptoms and their work. For many, this can be challenging to do.
For example, say an employee suffers from heart disease and has a heart attack on the job. They’d need to prove that their heart attack was a result of working. Some states provide guidelines for what is needed to develop a stress-related claim. Although it is often left up to the employee to show how the injury was related to their work.
For instance, in California, an employee can receive workers’ comp benefits if they have a mental disorder. To receive workers’ comp, their mental disorder must require treatment or cause a disability. To do this, the employee must be able to prove that their employment was the primary cause of their disorder.
Workers' Compensation From The Hartford
Workplace wellness programs can reduce the amount of workers’ comp claims. They can also reduce employee absenteeism and more. Remember that providing workers’ compensation benefits is a must in the United States.
Learn more about the cost of workers' compensation – contact The Hartford. Get a quote today for workers' compensation.
This article provides general information, and should not be construed as specific legal, HR, financial, insurance, tax or accounting advice. As with all matters of a legal or human resources nature, you should consult with your own legal counsel and human resources professionals. The Hartford shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, punitive or exemplary damages in connection with the use by you or anyone of the information provided herein.
1 National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Dogs in the Workplace: A Review of the Benefits and Potential Challenges.”