Getting Ahead of Engagement: A New Approach to Creating a Supportive Workplace



Getting Ahead of Engagement: A New Approach to Creating a Supportive Workplace That Pays Dividends

By Karen English

Senior Vice President
Spring Consulting Group

By Teri Weber

Senior Vice President
Spring Consulting Group

Employee engagement is one of the biggest advantages to employers implementing integrated programs that show a return on investment ranging from three to 15 times the initial investment.1 It’s critical to consider how managers interact with employees early and often throughout the absence process, and more recently, to address challenges posed by COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. It requires a new approach to plans, policies, and their interconnectedness (or in some cases, disconnectedness) that can create confusion among employees about their benefits.

We know that employee absence, return to work, and stay at work have gotten harder. COVID-19 has affected reasons for leave, work environments, and home situations that often include new and challenging factors. We also must consider that behavioral health issues have reached crisis levels, which is often a contributor to, if not a driver of, absence and productivity outcomes.

As a result, absence and leave management professionals need to go beyond symptoms or diagnoses and consider biopsychosocial aspects of a claimant’s situation as well as barriers to care or return to work. The biopsychosocial concept refers to processes, tools, and technology that are customized and streamlined before, during, and after absences to provide a supportive atmosphere for employees. This concept was noted in a 2020 Risk & Insurance article,2 and is gaining traction in several industries.

In Their Shoes

Plans and policies for employee leave have expanded to build on short- and long-term disability (STD/LTD), workers’ compensation (WC), and the unpaid federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Programs include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) leave or alternative accommodations; state paid family leave or paid family and medical leave; and employer-sponsored paid parental leave, to name a few. Employees may also have medical benefits, employee assistance programs, well-being benefits, and/or behavioral health benefits that come into play. These policies and plans do not always dovetail as they should, and communication can make them seem disjointed. Couple that with the fact that most employees who need to take time off for medical or family issues are not focused on plan designs and policy provisions. They’re asking themselves questions like:

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