Preventative Approach To Employee Health

Healthcare in the US is often criticized as being reactive vs. proactive. What this means is that as opposed to educating and promoting “self-care” activities like healthy eating, exercise, and stress management, we wait until a problem exists, and then try to react to solve the problem.

In fact, some sources articulate that upwards of 75% of healthcare spending in the US is on reactive care.1 This number is so large because many health conditions that we treat reactively end up being chronic ailments, like heart disease and diabetes.

As these chronic conditions lack a true “cure,” costs compound as management of disease becomes the focus vs. resolution. Whatever happened to implementing the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”

Unfortunately, this reactive approach is often implemented in the workplace. Employers view the overall health of their employees as being unrelated to work, and are therefore unwilling to offer services or provide time to employees to better their overall health. Rather, employers position themselves to hire and employ an unhealthy workforce, which ultimately facilitates work-related injuries.

As you may imagine, this reactive approach to employee health can have significant detrimental effects to the employer, including decreased productivity, increased turnover, and significant direct/indirect costs. As opposed to spending a little bit of time and resources to enhance employee health, employers often spend big by reactively managing injuries, trying to find replacement workers, and paying increased premiums as their experience modifier rises.

What if employers took a more proactive approach to employee health? After all, most of us spend a significant majority of our week at work. Don’t employees deserve an environment that prioritizes their health and wellness? And shouldn’t employers prioritize the implementation of programs that have been shown to increase productivity while reducing turnover, costs, and absenteeism? In the paragraphs below, we’ll highlight steps employers can take to promote

Post-Offer Employment Testing

Most jobs require some degree of physical demand. Does it not then make sense, in an effort to reduce injury, to encourage employers to screen potential employees to confirm if they’re capable of performing essential functions of the job? Hiring someone without performing an objective, pre-hire screen is essentially a gamble, as the employer assumes the employee will possess the physical attributes required.

When the employee’s abilities are mismatched with the job, what is likely to occur? Injury! In fact, studies have shown that employers who mismatch employees physical abilities to the actual job demands see a significant difference in injury rates and costs associated with them.2

By implementing post-offer employment testing (an EEOC compliant assessment), the employer protects themselves and the employee, ensuring that any role offered to the employee matches their current physical abilities. This prevents injuries from occurring, and ultimately enhances the health of the workforce.

It should be noted that failure of a post-offer employment test doesn’t necessarily mean disqualifying a candidate from employment, but rather allows the employer to consider alternative roles or accommodations. Some research studies have shown that implementation of these types of programs Preventative Approach To Employee Healthoffer between a $1418 return on investment.3,4 Furthermore, these programs have been shown to reduce lost work days and staff turnover.5,6

Wellness Programs

According to a recent survey by Harvard University, 40% of working adults in the US report that their job negatively impacted their health and family life.7 In a job market that’s currently referred to as the “Great Resignation,” employers in many fields are struggling to retain workers. As employers search for ways to “stand out” to prospective employees, a wellness program can be a differentiator. Wellness programs can range from providing Health Risk Assessments, a screening tool to assess cholesterol, body mass index, and blood pressure, to offering financial incentives for engaging in employer-sponsored health programs.

Additionally, employers can leverage the expertise of physical therapists to provide supplemental health and injury prevention strategies ranging from general nutrition counseling, stretching programs, general exercise advice, and education regarding biomechanics and ergonomics. When offered on-site and prioritized by employers, these services have been shown to be effective at reducing work-related injuries, workers’ compensation costs, and absenteeism while increasing productivity.

Stretching Programs

Pre and post-shift stretching programs have been a popular strategy for many employers. They are easy to design and implement, and the research is supportive of their effectiveness.

So how does an employer go about building and implementing a program? The first step is to partner with a physical or occupational therapist. Next, the therapist needs to spend time onsite, observing various job tasks and reviewing employer logs of prior injuries (to determine regions of the body with higher percentages of injuries).

After the observation and analysis, the therapist can build an exercise routine to specifically address areas of concern. Implementation of these programs have been shown to reduce injuries and pain, while improving the quality of life of employees.8

How Can Upstream Rehabilitation Help?

At Upstream Rehabilitation, we have an entire team of skilled therapists ready to implement proactive and preventative strategies. By partnering with employers, either onsite or off, employees will reap the benefit of a variety of injury prevention and wellness programs aimed at building culture, reducing injury and expenses, and ultimately enhancing health.

Interested in Learning More?

Kimberly A’Hearn, Upstream Rehabilitation’s Director of Industrial Services, would be happy to discuss customizable opportunities for any employer interested in learning more. Please reach out to her at



  2. Harbin G, Olson J. Post offer, pre-placement testing in industry. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2005;47:296-307
  3. Harbin GL, Shenoy C, Garcia A, Olson JC. Shoulder injury reduction with post-offer testing. Work. 2011;39(2):113-23
  4. Littleton M. Cost Effectiveness of a pre-work screening program for the University of Chicago physical plant. Work. 2003; 21 (3): 243-250
  5. Nassau D. The effects of pre-work functional screening on lowering an employer’s injury rate, medical costs, and lost days. Spine. 1999;24(3):269-274
  6. Anderson C, Briggs J. A study on the effectiveness of ergonomically-based functional screening tests and their relationship to reducing worker’s compensation injuries. Work. 2008;31(1):27-37.
  7. Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The workplace and health. Published July 26, 2019.
  8. Leyshon R, et al. Ergonomic interventions for office workers with musculoskeletal disorders: A systematic review. Work 2010;35:335-348