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Integrate Employee Benefits & Risk Management to Improve Staff & Community Wellbeing

Education, Employee Benefits, Property & Casualty

By Marty Malloy and Bec Kurzynske

Educators know better than anyone that collaboration can substantially impact success. Just as students need to develop the ability to coordinate with others in order to attain a goal, so too do school districts when it comes to their employee benefits and property & casualty insurance programs.

Often, these two programs are siloed, with different decision makers at the helm and, frequently, different brokers in the driver’s seat. Money and progress are left on the table without insight and collaboration between these two arms of your organization.

A coordinated approach to employee benefits and property & casualty risk management can not only improve overall wellbeing of students and staff, but also reduce costs for your district.

What are the benefits of a coordinated approach?

When districts focus on the wellbeing of their students and staff, they can lower workers’ compensation costs, lower health care costs, and decrease absences, thereby increasing student achievement. It’s a circular cause and effect that starts with prioritizing wellbeing.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “It turns out that a comprehensive, strategically designed investment in employees’ social, mental, and physical health pays off.”1

Prioritizing wellbeing in your school district

Many school districts already have a wellbeing program in place that focuses on fitness and nutrition, but there are four key drivers that make school districts especially successful when it comes to wellbeing: a focus on obesity and chronic disease management, a vision for success, leadership, and the creation of a wellbeing committee.

When these drivers are in place, wellbeing programs are often more comprehensive, focusing not just on weight and physical health, but also work/life balance, mental health, and financial health to create a holistic result for students and staff.

Fostering a holistic wellbeing program can have a major effect on your staff’s health, and, consequently, the desirability of your district and your workers’ compensation costs.

How does wellbeing impact workers’ compensation?

Staff who struggle with wellbeing are often absent

From physical wellbeing to mental and financial wellbeing, staff who feel that their needs are not being met can experience lost productivity, which impacts workers’ compensation costs.

“Personal health risk does impact future lost productivity in workers’ compensation claims even after adjustment for demographic, health factors, and job type,” according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “Employers wishing to reduce the impact of lost productivity should consider a workers’ personal health risks as predictors of future lost productivity and may want to address this in broad risk reduction programs.”2

We know this to be true. Fully-insured workers’ compensation costs are largely determined by a district’s experience modification. Loss time cases have a disproportionate effect on this statistic, increasing your workers’ compensation costs at the outset.

When a district focuses on the wellbeing of its staff, it benefits students, staff, and the district. Healthier employees are more likely to return to work before indemnity payments start, in which case their claims would fall into the medical-only category, where claims are reduced by 70% in the experience modification calculation.

Districts who prioritize wellbeing among their staff can positively affect workers’ compensation, reducing time away for teachers and creating an environment that highly sought-after educators want to work in.

Loss in productivity impacts your district beyond workers’ compensation costs

There are soft costs to a lack of focus on wellbeing as well. According to an OSHA study, indirect workplace injury costs are 3x to 7x that of direct costs, and Mercer/Kronos study shared that unplanned absences result in the highest net loss of productivity per day.

When a lack of wellbeing results in absenteeism from your staff, your student’s achievement falters as well. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in conjunction with Harvard University estimates that every 10 days of teacher absence reduces students’ achievement by 3.3 percent of a standard deviation.3

The verdict is in: helping employees achieve a more positive lifestyle through wellbeing programs that focus on obesity and chronic disease is not only a sign that you care about your employees, but is also a sound business decision.

What should my district do to better integrate employee benefits and property & casualty?

The problem still stands – seeing employee benefits and property & casualty as two, unrelated aspects of your district’s operations means that you’re leaving money, staff satisfaction, and student achievement on the table.

There are many ways for your district to better integrate employee benefits and property & casualty including working with one broker on both sides of the house in order to encourage knowledge-sharing and provide deeper access to your data, resulting in statistic-driven decision-making and strategy.

Other ideas include: hosting vendor summits to bring carriers and service providers into one room where they can discuss how they can work together to reduce your costs and adding property & casualty risk management to create a safer work environment that improves employee wellbeing and keeps teachers in the classroom.

We’ve seen the integration of employee benefits and property & casualty work wonders before. (An Oregon Health & Science University Meta Data Study noted that integration of health, wellbeing, and workers’ compensation can lead to an overall cost reduction of 25%.)

Genuine collaboration can reduce the cost of your programs, support healthier employees, lower health care and workers’ compensation costs, discourage absenteeism, and even generate higher student achievement.


1 WHAT’S THE HARD RETURN ON EMPLOYEE WELLNESS PROGRAMS? Berry, Mirabito and Baun.  Harvard Business Review

2 EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND FREQUENCY OF WORKERS COMPENSATION AND DISABILITY CLAIMS. Kuhnen, Burch Shenolikar and Joy. Journal of Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine

3 DO TEACHER ABSENCES IMPACT STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT? LONGITUDINAL EVIDENCE FROM ONE URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICT. Miller, Willet & Murname.  NBER

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