Dana Rindal, CPA, MBA
Co-Founder of Vimocity, Movement Health Thought-Leader
(Est Read Time: 6-Minutes)
The CEO wasn’t sure what had happened. One of the company’s top performing departments had steadily declined in productivity and profitability.
Rather than just sitting on the sidelines and making a few phone calls, the CEO decided to go onsite and actually talk with employees and department supervisors. What she found was shocking. People were feeling overworked and underappreciated. Digging in further, she found that two key employees on the team were out on leave of absences due to work-related injuries. One experienced a back injury and the other was scheduled for a shoulder replacement surgery after years of cumulative wear and tear from consistently performing physical overhead work.
The leave of absence by both of these employees had placed a burden of extra work on the rest of the team and strained the existing resources of the department, including the supervisors.
In the past decade, I have met with countless company leaders and safety managers that have had similar experiences as the CEO described above. The reality is that over ⅓ of all on-the-job injuries are related to one type of injury- musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs is a term thrown around regularly, but what actually is an MSD? These include injuries related to muscles and joints, such as strains, sprains, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, etc.
According to OSHA, companies pay on average $69,594 PER strain.1 Considering that most companies are experiencing numerous MSD-related injuries per year, it becomes apparent how quickly this cost compounds and can act as a significant burden on an organization.
Fortunately for company leaders, injuries and workplace pain are not inevitable and do not have to be accepted as the “cost of doing business.” In fact, the right health and safety infrastructure will not only “cover your risk” associated with MSDs, but produce a tangible safety program ROI for your company.
There are industry-leading companies that have made this a reality and are successfully reducing workplace pain while simultaneously receiving a triple-digit return on their investment.
So what do these successful companies all have in common in their approach and what can YOU learn from them?
- Actively recognize the magnitude of muscle and joint pain among employees
- Don’t just guess. Know with certainty the measurable ways MSDs are affecting the company
- Care about employees and seek to actively engage them in the solution
- Calculate the ROI of health and safety initiatives
1. ACTIVELY RECOGNIZE THE PREVALENCE OF PAIN AMONG EMPLOYEES
If your employees aren’t in pain, your company is the rare exception. When studies find that nearly 92% of office workers worldwide experience musculoskeletal symptoms2, great companies can’t afford to NOT acknowledge the issue. If you’re unsure of the prevalence of muscle and joint pain among your employees, there’s an easy way to confirm...simply ask them. An anonymous workplace survey asking employees if they suffer from regular back, neck, shoulder discomfort, etc. is an easy way to discover the needs of your employees. At Vimocity, we’ve surveyed nearly 1,000 employees across industries and we consistently find that 70% of employees report experiencing regular discomfort. Successful companies don’t turn a blind eye to these types of stats but instead lean into them and actively pursue solutions.
2. DON’T JUST GUESS. KNOW WITH CERTAINTY THE MEASURABLE WAYS MSDS ARE AFFECTING THE SAFETY PROGRAM ROI OF THE COMPANY.
On numerous occasions, I’ve met with the Directors of Safety that tell me they have thousands of workers but don’t really have injuries or issues related to muscle and joint health. Though it may be true that their company has had low rates of recordable MSDs, this is only one of many channels in which MSD-related issues appear. The true costs of MSDs aren’t reflected in workers’ compensation claims alone. Even companies that are experiencing relatively low rates of work-related recordable injuries are likely paying heavily in other areas- namely health care costs and loss of productivity. Here are three ways you can start measuring the true cost your company is paying for MSD-related issues.
Workers’ Compensation Costs - Companies may look at their injury data for the year and see just a few cases of strains and sprains. However, one MSD alone could be costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. The first step to understanding the costs and trends associated with your company’s MSD cases is to streamline your injury data. See our guide below to get started.
Health Insurance Costs - From our observation, a large portion of workplace pain is not reported as a workplace injury but instead develops over a period of time and can be the result of both home and work environments. However, this doesn’t mean a company isn’t paying for them. Most employees, especially office workers, tend to visit the doctor for these issues, resulting in significant health insurance costs.
For self-insured companies, this places the burden of cost on the employer. In fact, when health insurance claims are taken into account, on average employers are paying $346 per employee per year to cover the costs associated with back pain alone.3 To get a better idea of the amount your company is paying in healthcare claims, meet with your HR director or broker and review the MSD-related claims.
Lost Productivity - The average MSD incident takes an employee out for 13 days. That’s 38% longer than the return to work for an average injury.3 Having a single employee, let alone multiple employees, out for that period of time puts a tremendous strain on a business and their ability to serve their clients. Beyond absence from work, pain also results in a significant amount of productivity loss among employees who are present at work but distracted by pain. Studies find that employees experiencing pain are less productive for 5.5 hours PER WEEK.4
3. VALUE EMPLOYEES AND SEEK TO ACTIVELY ENGAGE THEM IN THE SOLUTION
One of the rules for staying and thriving in business is to have a profitable bottom line. Fortunately, investing in your company's culture and people can actually drive profitability while simultaneously having a positive impact on employee’s lives. Your company is only as good as the people who make it up so investing in your people is the greatest investment you can make. When your employees are in pain, they aren’t their best selves on or off the job and your company pays for it.
When seeking to develop programs and company infrastructure to address workplace pain, think about your employees first. The best-intentioned programs will fail if you don’t engage your employees and tie it to what they care about most. The reality is that a person’s quality of life is impacted by their quality of movement. What does that mean? Let me give you a real-life example.
Recently we worked with an employee who was unable to reach down and tie her own shoe due to limitations in mobility and weight. After empowering her to take simple steps to begin to improve her movement, she was able to not only tie her shoes but also gain the confidence to start to make other positive changes in her life. She told us that the program was the best thing her company had ever done for her. Why? It had such a profound impact on her quality of life. Confidence, productivity, and strong employee morale all result when employers invest in their people.
4. CALCULATE THE ROI OF HEALTH AND SAFETY INITIATIVES
Health and safety programs can’t just be “flavors of the week.” In order to make a real and lasting change when it comes to MSDs, injury prevention and movement health need to be embedded into the company culture and built into its infrastructure. This means that companies constantly need to be analyzing the success of different components and regularly reviewing success metrics. Afterall, how can you know if something is working if you don’t measure it? Companies that are successfully addressing MSDs are constantly examining benchmarks and ensuring their investment is getting a return for the company.
“I’m a proponent of benchmarks and measures. Objective data allows you to understand your current state, pinpoint what needs to change and track how you’re doing. Measures are also essential for the high level of employee engagement you’ll need to drive change and instill a total safety culture. It’s what spurred us from the third quartile to the first quartile in less than two years.”5
-Kimberly Harris, CEO of Puget Sound Energy
The reality is there is no one simple solution to reducing workplace pain and MSDs. However, numerous companies have successfully leveraged a holistic approach to make real and lasting change. Vimocity is honored to have the opportunity to partner with several of those organizations to help them predict and prevent injuries before they occur.
Interested in learning how Vimocity can support your company through a data-driven, proven approach?
2. Calculation based on direct and indirect costs incurred by a company https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/safetypays/estimator.html
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