Enlyte 2022 Workers’ Comp Predictions Reveal Staffing Pinch
Enlyte, the P&C group that joined Genex, Mitchell, and Coventry, released a new paper of 2022 predictions for the workers’ comp market.
Central to the report are the measures claims payers and employers must take to soothe the pain of staffing shortages among those that remain in frontline jobs and the managers that are struggling to hire additional help.
“Many employers, not just claims payers, are concerned about employee burnout and staff turnover,” said Tammy Bradly, senior director clinical product marketing at Genex Services.
“I do see a number of tactics being implemented, but it’s truly bigger than just burnout. Workers are truly feeling disconnected.”
Enlyte predicts that mental health will continue to be a “chief concern” this year, reflecting wide patterns across the country and the world attempting to transition from a pandemic to endemic state, and return to normal.
Mental Health Stressors Adding Up
Mike Milidonis, national manager, ergonomics & employee services, at Genex Services explained that COVID-19’s lingering uncertainty has created persistent stressors.
“When the pandemic first began, it wreaked havoc on employees’ mental health, as many faced increased stress and pressures,” Milidonis said.
“Now, there’s a great deal of pandemic fatigue. For those employees who were dealing with less-than-optimal work conditions, many have left their jobs for better opportunities and a chance at improved life/work balance. But in many cases, employees who are left behind now face a greater work burden.”
That work burden is immense in some cases, compounded by a substantial reduction in the labor force.
The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, released February 1, listed the number of job openings at 10.9 million on the last business day of December.
And hires and total separations actually decreased to 6.3 million and 5.9 million, respectively. Within separations, the quits rate hardly budged at 2.9%, while the layoffs and discharges rate was little changed at 0.8%, which the Bureau reports is a series low.
Staffing Shortages and Retention
According to Enlyte’s experts, staffing shortages and the efforts to mitigate it are top of mind, and “employers will look to retain employees and attempt to balance the work, life, health and productivity equation.”
Bradly believes a key part of that retention effort lies in enhanced, complete benefit packages and flexibility.
“For recruitment, benefits are very important. That is clear today. Total benefits packages matter. That is one of the key [successful strategies],” Bradley said.
“The other is making the connections — really working with your staff to make connections, not just manager to employee but really employee to employee.”
Bradley explained that despite the fact that employees ask for wellness programs, in particular, mental wellness programs, the rate of employee engagement with them is still just one third.
“We really do feel like a lot of that is due to the stigma, particularly around your wellbeing programs and mental health programs — people are afraid to access them.”
Automation in Claims
If organizations are unable to retain employees, which is nearly inevitable in the current landscape, capturing their knowledge to establish best practices becomes more important.
The report predicts that claims managers will seek to do this through increasing the ratio of automated tasks, which generally focus on predictive analytics and decision support.
“Retaining expertise is something that regardless of the Great Resignation or employee turnover, for many years, for all of our clients, every time we engage, it’s at the forefront of the conversation,” said Shahin Hatamain, senior vice president of product management at Mitchell.
As automotive tools are developed, Hatamain recommends observing first and foremost.
“How are they performing their duties? Are they really in the system and doing the things that are automated in the system, the workflows, or are they still relying on personal notes and what’s in their head? Sticky notes stuck to the monitor? Even before you embark on the technology, you want to ask how much of the work is documented. That’s the starting point to capturing that expertise. And the next step is to codify that inside of your systems if you have workflow solutions.”
In addition to automation, Enlyte predicts that three other tech methods will win out among savvy executives: improving training, retaining internal expertise, and improving user experience and workflows.
As the report explains, these are necessarily linked initiatives, which taken together will rise as a continuation of the pandemic’s effect on work methods.
Enlyte states in the report, “While we may not see the technological boom in 2022 that we experienced in 2020, we do expect payers will continue steadily incorporating new technologies into their claims programs.”
And on the Employer Side
For Milidonis’ part, the employer side of the equation is just as fraught as the payer side, with excessive overtime and under trained employees potentially driving injury frequency.
“Employers must have their risk managers, HR departments, and executive teams work together to ensure strategies are in place to foster overall employee wellbeing and safety. In addition, risk managers must keep a close eye on work comp injury trends to determine if new risks are developing, which need to be targeted with safety solutions,” Milidonis said.
He added that remote work doesn’t let employers or payers off the hook and emphasized the need for ergonomic expertise.
“Some have observed differences in the types of injuries sustained in today’s remote work setting. For example, an increase in repetitive strain and musculoskeletal disorders have resulted from poorly designed home workstations.
“As a result, employers have been leveraging remote ergonomic evaluations to identify and rectify ergonomic safety issues with individualized adjustments. In addition, they’re setting policies, such as establishing a defined workspace and set work hours within the home. This helps minimize the likelihood that a home injury is mistaken as a work injury, and it supports the work/life balance that employees crave.”
As the pandemic’s latest surge, due to the omicron variant descends from it’s crest of infections at the start of the year, employers and payers will still seek to satisfy that craving, through which methods though, remains to be seen.
Access the Enlyte report here. &