2:12 am November 7, 2019

Make a Stronger Return to Work Program Your New Year’s Resolution

Source: Dawn Edwards

A strong Return to Work program does more than help your company’s bottom line. Engaging your employees, including them in the company culture and being flexible in how they transition back to work will help them return to work more quickly and will help make them a happier, more productive employee. The fact is that employees who are unable to work after an injury are likely to suffer from more than just an injury.

The most common issues an injured employee may deal with include obesity, hard feelings about coworkers, troubled home life, the lack of temporary modified work assignments, limited English proficiency and – most commonly noted – poor coping skills. Additionally, being out of work can lead to problems such as increased smoking, alcohol abuse, illicit drug use and risky sexual behavior. Suicide rates have also been observed to increase by a factor of six the longer an injured employee is out of work.

Help Employees with Advocacy
Companies that successfully return injured employees back to work have shifted away from an adversarial model to one of advocacy, where they treat the injured worker as a whole person. By listening, engaging and informing, you are more likely to have a happier employee who is more willing to return to work and continue to perform at a high level of productivity.

“Soft skills” such as compassion and empathy are used to manage injured employees back to work. Case managers actively listen and engage with the employee and let them know what is happening every step of the way. Adversarial or compliance driven models not only waste money but are ill-suited for addressing fears, beliefs, perceptions and poor coping skills among injured workers.

Engage Employees for Faster Return to Work
Caring for the employee is key to returning him/her to work as quickly as possible. There is strong evidence that the longer an employee is away from work, the less likely they are to return to work. Meaning that the longer a claim is open and the employee is out, the lower the chances of ever successfully returning that employee back to work.

Statistically speaking, after only four weeks of being away after an injury, 1 out of every 5 employees will not return to work. After six months, that number is even higher, with 4 of 5 injured employees never returning to work.

Try These 5 Proven Best Practices
As an employer, you can increase the chances of successfully returning your injured employees back to work quickly and safely by following these five best practices:

  • Only work with claims companies whose adjusters follow best practices treating the entire worker and who embrace the advocacy role
  • Remove barriers to return to work within your organization. Even if light duty work is not regularly offered, find ways to bring a skilled employee back to the workforce. Consider having the employee help train new or lesser skilled employees, help teach new hire orientation or assist with process improvement projects. If he employee is an asset to your organization, make room for them and treat them as such.
  • Find ways to reduce the sick role being taken on by the employee and provide access to specialists who deal in cognitive behavioral or talk therapy
  • Actively engage with employees who are injured and ensure they feel included in work activities and remain part of the company culture
  • Work with medical providers who are familiar with your organization and understand the functional outcomes expected to return the employee to full duty within the company

While not every employee will return to work after an injury, your company will certainly be more successful and increase the odds by following best practices. Removing barriers and helping employees return to work has benefits beyond saving your company time and money.

For help in setting up a program like this, an onsite therapist is a great resource and can provide detailed instruction on how to assist in returning employees back to work safely and quickly.  Contact WorkWell today for more information.

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