The Measurable Benefits of a Holistic Approach to Occupational Health Care
In recent years, transparency, inclusivity, and equality have become increasingly critical considerations for employers as they develop company health and wellness initiatives. Pandemic-related changes have also fueled the demand for employers to modify their policies and procedures to support better work-life balance and overall health.1 With the establishment and widespread acceptance of these relatively new societal norms, modern employees are more likely to expect a progressive and well-rounded menu of services capable of meeting their unique needs as individuals.
Not only that, but employers have much to gain by providing access to comprehensive, convenient, and integrated care that promotes physical wellness and emotional well-being. At Concentra®, we are committed to adapting to the ever-changing role of occupational health care in the marketplace and continue to explore the growing ways in which both employers and employees can benefit from a more holistic approach toward workforce health – one that takes into account the undeniable link between an employee’s sense of well-being and their productivity on the job.
Defining Holistic Care in Occupational Health
In the traditional sense, holistic medicine aims to restore function and cultivate wellness by addressing a patient’s body, mind, and spirit. In broader terms, a holistic approach may simply place weight or value on ideas that are not typically taken into consideration by conventional institutions. For example, Montessori school programs are often considered more holistic than classic preschools, as Montessori schools deliberately curate their curriculums with students’ physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development – rather than just their academic progress – in mind.2 In either case, promoting complete wellness, or well-being, is generally considered a primary objective of holism.
In the narrow corner of occupational health, the “gold standard” for holistic care is evolving. In fact, the very definition of well-being within our industry may even be up for debate.3 Even so, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) itself has publicly recognized the need for a more holistic structure within occupational safety and health, rolling out the Total Worker Health® (TWH) program to further study the correlation between holistic health and safety practices, employee well-being, and productivity.3,4 Concentra’s occupational health care model approaches holism from a unique perspective, aiming to provide multifaceted programs and products that support the employee’s physical wellness and overall well-being, while in turn promoting the employer’s operational wellness and financial well-being.
Why Employee Well-being Matters to the Employer
The relationship between employee health and output has been well-studied, with many employers noting a quantifiable elevation in productivity value in healthy employees.5 Previously, an employee’s health was measured primarily by their physical wellness, ability to perform a job, and safety at work. In contemporary times, we are beginning to better understand the complexity of employee health and – more importantly – how to further improve it.
Arguably the most monumental advancement in the modern approach to occupational health has been the evolutionary development of the concept of employee well-being. More than a physical assessment alone, well-being considers the employee’s mental health, happiness, lifestyle outside of work, and other factors that are proven to influence productivity. Overwhelming research shows that healthy, fulfilled, and supported employees are more motivated to come to work, more productive while at work, and more likely to stay with an employer over a longer period of time, leading to a dramatic reduction in absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover rates.6,7 With the inextricable links between employee well-being and employer revenue and profit, it is critical for employers to provide access to occupational health care resources that address employee health from all angles.8
Complete Care for Healthier, More Productive Employees
In the universal sense of occupational health care, specialized workforce health and safety programs help employees to:
- Avoid and prevent work-related injury or illness
- Return to work sooner after injury or illness
- Enhance performance on the job
- Miss fewer days of work
- Feel better while at work
- Limit lost wages
In addition to these fundamental employee benefits of occupational health care, a more modern, holistic approach will also help alleviate psychosocial challenges that may preclude an employee from performing their job, particularly following a work-related injury or illness. Dr. Maja Jurisic – Vice-President, Medical Director Strategic Accounts at Concentra – shares an outside study revealing that employees’ expectations for returning to work are primarily shaped by five key points, known as “perceived uncertainties.”9 These include a fear of repeat injury, the potential inability to perform their job upon returning to work, the feeling that their injury (or pain) is not being fairly acknowledged or evaluated, and others. At the clinician level, Concentra’s providers understand the complex, delicate, and holistic approach needed to treat the biomedical issue while preserving or restoring the patient’s attitude toward (and expectations for) returning to work. Through a caring bedside manner, fairness, education, and more, Concentra clinicians aim to minimize uncertainty and provide employee-patients with clarity and reassurance. This personalized and holistic strategy has been shown to optimize the return-to-work process for both employer and employee.8
Considering factors outside of work is likewise becoming an essential part of efforts to improve employee health and well-being. Where previous programs were focused on assessing potential health and safety threats associated with the workplace itself, occupational health care now recognizes the connections between an employee’s productivity at work and their life outside of work.10 This may be more relevant now than ever, as wellness efforts must also cater to the emerging framework where some or all of an employee’s time is spent at home. Screening tools for depression and substance abuse can be crucial in identifying certain conditions or tendencies that may interfere with an employee’s ability to effectively carry out their role, making psychological and behavioral analyses valuable in an occupational health setting. Additionally, extending health and wellness services to employees’ families can contribute to a heightened sense of well-being for employees themselves.
Taking holistic care beyond the expected parameters, Concentra also strives to meet the convenience-driven lifestyles of today’s employees, offering integration and accessibility through Concentra Telemed®, Concentra Telerehab®, mobile health services, and other cutting-edge technologies. As a 2021 SYKES survey reported, over 87 percent of employee respondents preferred to continue using telehealth services even after the COVID-19 pandemic.11 These “added perks” of a more holistic methodology can help employees to feel further supported in their health and wellness, amplifying the already compelling benefits of occupational health care.
Preserving the Well-being of Your Business with Holistic Care
In December 2020, the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) estimated that poor employee health costs employers up to $575 billion and 1.5 billion days of lost productivity annually.12 According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers who invest in health and safety improvements in the workplace can expect reduced spending and increased profitability to be among the many returns on such an investment.13 It’s been established that a more complete approach to workforce health and safety plays a pivotal role in supporting employee wellness and well-being, and the same may be true for preserving the operational wellness and financial well-being of the employer.
In other words, addressing the mental, physical, and lifestyle needs of employees through a holistic approach to workforce health and safety can influence certain measurable success factors (e.g., employee turnover rates). Mercer’s 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans revealed that employers using the highest number of employee-health “best practices” boasted an average turnover rate 11 percentage points lower than other groups.14
From workers’ compensation claims to absenteeism to turnover, the real costs associated with a one-sided approach to employee health can’t be ignored. To learn more about how occupational injuries and illnesses may impact the financial well-being of your business, take advantage of OSHA’s online estimation software, $afety Pays.
At Concentra, our physicians, clinicians, experts, advisors, and corporate team members stay at the forefront of occupational health care trends to ensure our clients have access to the most up-to-date and effective services available today. Along with increased emphasis on overall well-being, the integration of workplace safety and workforce health has gained support in recent years, due in part to the positive impact it can have on employee productivity and the workplace as a whole.15 With this in mind, Concentra offers a variety of occupational safety and health assessment and guidance tools to further support employers. Through clinical consultations, ergonomic evaluations, Medical Advisory Services, and more – combined with employee-patient treatment and care – Concentra helps thousands of employers nationwide to:
- Optimize processes and procedures
- Improve workplace safety and workforce health
- Prevent job-related incident, illness, and injury
- Reduce workers’ compensation expenses
- Boost employee wellness, well-being, and productivity
- Decrease costs
- Realize higher return-to-work rates
Through detailed follow-up surveys, interviews with employee-patients, and advanced analytical tools, the real value of Concentra’s occupational health services can be continuously assessed.
More is More in Occupational Health Care
In some ways, occupational health services are viewed as opportunities for reduction. Employees can cut their out-of-pocket spend and time out of work, while employers can save on workers’ compensation expenses. On the other hand, occupational health care can be considered a means of enhancement – raising employee productivity rates and increasing the employer’s productivity by keeping employees healthy and facilitating a more efficient and sustainable return-to-work strategy. From either perspective, a modern occupational health program should be comprehensive, convenient, and integrative. Contact Concentra today to discover how our holistic approach to occupational health care can set your business apart and move it forward in the complex arena of employee health, safety, and well-being.
- “Four things workers want implemented by their bosses post-pandemic,” by Emma Charlton. World Economic Forum. May 7, 2021.
- Philippine Courtier, et al. Effects of Montessori Education on the Academic, Cognitive, and Social Development of Disadvantaged Preschoolers. Child Development. Sept – Oct 2021; 92(5): 2069 – 2088.
- “Work and Well-being: The Changing Face of Occupational Safety and Health,” by Paul A. Schulte, PhD, and Steve L. Sauter, PhD. NIOSH Science Blog; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 7, 2021.
- NIOSH Total Worker Health® Program. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Last reviewed July 28, 2020.
- Myde Boles, PhD, et al. The Relationship Between Health Risks and Work Productivity. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. July 2004; 46(7): 737-745.
- Workplace Health Promotion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed December 4, 2015.
- “Here's How HR Leaders Are Reducing Employee Absenteeism.” Forbes. March 23, 2022.
- “Behavioral health fast becoming focus area for workers' comp insurers,” by Bethan Moorcraft. Insurance Business America. December 29, 2021.
- Alison Stewart, et al. Injured Workers’ Construction of Expectations of Return to Work with Sub-Acute Back Pain: The Role of Perceived Uncertainty. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. March 2012; 22(1): 1-14.
- “A holistic approach to occupational health and safety.” Industrial Safety and Hygiene News. May 22, 2018.
- “How Americans Feel About Teleheath: One Year Later.” SYKES. March 2021.
- “Poor Health Costs US Employers $575 Billion and 1.5 Billion Days of Lost Productivity Per Year.” Integrated Benefits Institute. December 8, 2020.
- Business Case for Safety and Health. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- “The Surprisingly Strong Connection Between Well-being and Turnover,” by Beth Umland. Mercer. April 10, 2018.
- Ronald R. Loeppke, MD, MPH, FACOEM, et al. Integrating Health and Safety in the Workplace; How Closely Aligning Health and Safety Strategies Can Yield Measurable Benefits. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. May 2015; 57(5): 585-595.