New Report: Support Programs and Human Interaction Help Bring Employees Back to Work Faster After Disability Leave

The Standard’s study reveals comprehensive disability management
programs can boost efforts around employee recruitment, retention and
financial well-being

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Employees with health conditions are inevitable in the workplace. But in
its Employee
Disability Leave study
, Standard Insurance Company (The
) found that, despite this common occurrence, the way many
employers handle their employees’ health conditions can negatively
affect productivity, time out of office and overall employee experience.

“With benefits packages being a core component of most employers’
recruitment and retention strategies, employers are trying to find more
creative ways to manage costs and address the key needs of employees,”
says Jung Ryu, national accounts practice leader at The Standard. “As
employers look to do more to boost financial wellness efforts, they may
be missing a key way to support employees with disabling health
conditions. These employees are often financially stressed, and their
condition can often worsen or take longer to recover if not addressed.”

Workplace resource programs can provide holistic support

Integration between workplace resource programs — including services
provided by a disability insurance carrier, disease management, wellness
and employee assistance program — can help improve employees’
experiences at work and aid in a return-to-work or stay-at-work plan.
The survey found that:

  • 97 percent of employees who were able to stay at work were connected
    with a workplace resource program.
  • 47 percent of employees with a chronic condition are not referred to
    any workplace resource program.

“Workplace resources — such as a disability carrier or EAP provider —
can support employees while they work through an illness or injury and
go beyond addressing their health condition,” Ryu says. “Because many
employees have concerns about the state of their finances after a health
condition, these services can provide holistic support. This approach
can help shorten disability leave duration or prevent an employee taking
leave altogether.”

Health conditions impact time out of office

The employees surveyed experienced a range of health conditions. Nearly
half of employees surveyed (47 percent) had a chronic condition —
including cancer, mental health condition, cardiovascular disease and
diabetes. Among employees who required a disability leave, length of
leave varied by condition:

  • 46 days: average length of leave for fractures
  • 64 days: average length of leave for chronic conditions
  • 112 days: average length of leave for mental health conditions

“To help reduce time out of the office, employers should look to their
disability program to help,” Ryu says. “Comprehensive disability
management can help employees in their recovery, support financial
wellness efforts through program referrals and create an approach that
fosters productivity. This can make employees feel valued and provide a
strong foundation for returning to work.”

Who employees ask for help defines their disability experience

The survey found that employees are approaching both their HR manager
and direct supervisor for assistance with a health condition. Overall,
HR managers provided a better experience than direct supervisors — as 48
percent of employees felt they were treated differently by their direct
supervisor because of their health condition versus only 39 percent who
said the same of working with their HR manager. In addition:

  • 60 percent of employees who worked with their direct supervisor were
    afraid of losing their job when reaching out about their health
  • Employees who worked with their HR manager were able to return to work
    44 percent faster than those who worked with their direct supervisor.

“Lack of a consistent process for reporting a health condition can
result in a negative experience for employees,” Ryu says. “Putting HR
managers at the center of the disability process can ensure employees
are communicated with effectively and provided with resources to help
address their condition.”

Accommodations are key in enabling a faster return to work

When analyzing what led to increased productivity and a shorter leave
duration, the survey found that accommodations were key.

  • 93 percent of employees said they could perform their job effectively
    after receiving support from their employer.
  • Employees who were provided accommodations returned to work more than
    30 days sooner than employees who weren’t provided with support, on

“A key survey finding was that simple accommodations — which may not
cost an employer anything – can be extremely helpful in supporting an
employee,” Ryu says. “Recognizing the high number of employees who
require disability leave, accommodations can help them return to work
quickly and be productive.”

About the Employee Disability Leave Study

The Standard engaged an online survey provider, Qualtrics, to survey a
sample of 528 participants in April 2017. Survey participants were
between the ages of 21 and 69, were employed full time and had a
household income of $50K or more per year. Among those surveyed, 23
percent (121) worked at a company of 10-249 employees, 36 percent (188)
worked at a company with 250-2,499 employees and 41 percent (219) worked
at a company of 2,500 or more employees.

To qualify for the survey, respondents had to be aware of short- and
long-term disability insurance, have experienced a health condition
resulting in a disability that prevented them from working or changed
the way they were working for at least six to eight weeks and for which
they requested and received workplace accommodations in the past year.
The survey excluded those who had filed a workers’ compensation claim
exclusively as a result of their illness or injury, or took standard
maternity leave.

About The Standard

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc., and
subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance
Company of Portland, Oregon, in all states except New York. Product
features and availability vary by state and are solely the
responsibility of Standard Insurance Company.


General Media:
The Standard
Bob Speltz, 971-321-3162
Bader Rutter
Katharine Foley, 262-938-5460

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