This article was originally published in Public Risk Magazine.
By Paul Binsfeld, president and founder of Company Nurse and CEO of Lintelio
From the pandemic to the “Great Resignation,” the events of the past two years have transformed organizations everywhere, driving innovation for workplace health and safety.
And as organizations prepare for the new year, they can expect the landscape of workplaces to continue to evolve. Here are my predictions for 2022’s workplace health and safety trends.
The Great Resignation and the Increase of Workplace Injuries
Between April and August 2021, 20 million American workers resigned from their jobs, reports Fast Company from recent U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.
This influx in U.S. workers leaving their jobs has been coined the “Great Resignation” by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University. Of course, reasons for resigning vary between individuals, but Klotz explained to the Washington Post that these reasons can be attributed to four main causes: a backlog of resignations delayed from the pandemic; higher levels of burnout; shifts in identity during the pandemic and, as such, shifts in jobs; and the return to in-person work, after enjoying the convenience of working from home.
With so many workers switching jobs and organizations hiring new workers, while still being understaffed, there is less time for training. And without a proper training process, organizations put themselves and their employees at greater risk for workplace injuries.
As such, I foresee an increase in workplace injuries in 2022 which will lead to a demand for nurse triage and solutions for reporting of and training on workplace safety issues.
Remote Workplace Injuries
Even though organizations have plans in place to return to the workplace, many will remain or transition back to being remote. According to an Upwork survey, 22% of the American workforce will be remote by 2025.
With remote work here to stay, what does this mean for the future of workplace injuries, now that the home has become the workplace?
A Chubb study reports that 63% of remote workers are more cautious around their home to avoid the hospital and, as such, risk of exposure to COVID-19. But they are still encountering work-related injuries. In fact, the same study found that 41% of remote workers reported pain developing in their backs, shoulders, and wrists, possibly due to the need for more ergonomically sound home workplaces.
To effectively address these injuries and avoid unnecessary visits to the ER, I again foresee employers providing their workers with access to nurse triage or, if they already provide nurse triage, perhaps looking to enhance their current program. Employers must ensure their triage process is easy-to-use so that employees understand the process for contacting a triage nurse, which can be especially confusing for remote workers without the support of their supervisor in the workplace.
To further eliminate barriers to utilizing nurse triage, employers should consider easy and efficient injury reporting tools that allow employees to access a triage nurse through the channel they are most comfortable with: chat, call, or video.
The Future of Telehealth
At the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth usage reached all-time highs. According to McKinsey, overall telehealth utilization for office visits and outpatient care was 78 times higher in April 2020 than in February 2020. As of the summer of 2021, telehealth usage has stabilized, while still 38X higher than before the pandemic, McKinsey reports.
Even though these rates are impressive when compared to pre-pandemic usage, one must ask why they have plateaued. Of course, the necessity of virtual care was a driving factor of the telehealth surge in April 2020, but why has usage dropped by 50% since then?
One reason could be that the overwhelming demand did not allow for enough time and resources for vendors to perfect their telehealth processes. With issues in both staffing and scaling technology, telehealth may have only been chosen out of necessity.
However, we can expect this experience to improve. McKinsey reports that investment in virtual care and digital health more broadly has skyrocketed, fueling further innovation, with 3X the level of venture capitalist digital health investment in 2020 than it had in 2017.
If your organization offers telehealth as an employee benefit, it is important to ensure you are investing in a vendor who is a part of the future of telehealth. Ask your vendor what services and improvements to customer experience they will provide as telehealth models everywhere evolve to include a range of services enabling longitudinal virtual care, integration of telehealth with other virtual health solutions, and hybrid virtual/in-person care models, with the potential to improve consumer experience/convenience, access, outcomes, and affordability, according to the same McKinsey report.
The Need for Employers to Engage in Benefits Utilization
With the increase in remote working, it has become more difficult for employees to access and navigate their healthcare, benefits, and communications with their employers. At the same time, employers are expected to be more engaged in the health, safety, and wellness of their employees to increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Organizations understand that employees need easier access to their health and wellness benefits via digital tools. In fact, a Mercer survey reports that 68% of employers globally plan to increase their spend on digital health and wellness.
The pandemic has increased the urgency for easy access to these services, but it can be difficult for employees to navigate through many benefits vendors. And with Mercer reporting that 44% of employees are less likely to leave employers who provide support for their well-being during the pandemic, employers must ensure they are not only providing care but supporting employees to access this care.
Consider all the benefits you likely already invest in, including medical, dental, and vision care; access to employee assistance programs and other wellness-related benefits; an intake, triage, and reporting system for workers’ compensation claims; and more.
Without proper access, these health and wellness benefits that organizations invest heavily in are underutilized. Employees aren’t getting the care they need, and employers aren’t getting a return from the programs they invest time and money to provide. A digital solution provides direct access to these benefits, which, in turn, increases employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Mental Health in the Workplace
With over 40% of Americans reporting increases in mental distress, according to the CDC, employee mental health has become a focus for organizations across the country. Mental Health America reports that 85% of employees believe their workplace affects their mental health and wellbeing.
Not only can investing in mental health resources greatly impact employees, but it can also improve an organization’s bottom line. In fact, employers see a return of $4 for every dollar invested in support of employee mental health, according to the National Safety Council.
This increase of focus on employee mental health and wellbeing will continue to destigmatize mental health and drive innovation of mental health resources. We will see both the demand and opportunities for digital mental health resources, provided by employers.
As your organization looks to invest in a digital workplace health and safety tool, it is important that mental health support is a factor in your search. Ensure that this tool allows for easy access to employee assistance programs, where employees can receive the mental health care that they need.
Employee Privacy and App Fatigue
Every benefit provider has their own website and app, each requiring a download and different password to remember. But that doesn’t mean they get used. In fact, a recent Statista report shows that 25% of apps downloaded are only used once.
While organizations are looking to invest in digital health and wellness, as stated above, they should consider where these digital solutions should be accessed. By housing your benefits under one solution, preferably with single sign-on for easy access, your employees will have a seamless process, avoiding app fatigue and increasing their utilization of benefits.
Make sure that your digital workplace health and safety tools can address the safety and privacy concerns of your employees. To avoid the security issues that may arise from downloading an app, look for a tool that works and feels like an app but that can be accessed via link. Your organization should also ensure that your solution supports HIPAA technical safeguards for encryption, multi-factor authentication, and audit logging.
Artificial Intelligence and the Customer Experience
The drive of innovation we continue to experience of course includes the artificial intelligence industry, which Arizton reports will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 46.21%, due to the evolution in health technologies.
I expect the adoption of artificial intelligence to both increase data quality and the customer experience. For example, at Company Nurse, we see a demand in multiple channels for nurse triage. One of these being the option to use an AI chat so that employees can easily and efficiently report their injuries. And when employees can utilize a channel they are most comfortable with, they will have more confidence in the injury reporting, which, in turn, leads to an increase in data quality.
With Lintelio, Company Nurse’s workplace digital solution for organizations’ health and safety services, you have access to the above tools and more. Email email@example.com to learn why Lintelio should be a part of YOUR organization’s workplace health and safety strategy!