When to return to work after an injury is one of the most difficult decisions patients and their health providers must make. If it’s too early they may risk further injury but left too late and they risk a raft of other problems. Finding the right balance is best for everyone but sometimes employees need convincing they are ready.
Benefits to Returning to Work
It is good for employers to have a full team at work but what many injured employees often don’t realise is they are the ones who benefit the most from returning to work.
More Physical Activity Aids Recovery
People are far more likely to be sedentary when at home compared to going to your workplace each day. The lack of activity and boredom can lead to overeating and excess kilos which some may never be able to shift.
The increased physical activity involved in getting ready and traveling to work often improves recovery. While physical therapy is important in regaining strength and mobility, so too is incidental exercise. Increased blood circulation and movement through the day help stamina and mobility improve.
Stopping Anxiety & Depression
Staying at home all day can cause depression. Getting employees back to work means they have the social support of their friends at work. People often think of their family and friends as their support network, but colleagues can play a daily role.
The longer a worker stays away from work, the harder the return is. They have time to dwell on not wanting to go back, and their anxiety and dread builds. Confidence in being able to do their job can diminish with every day they are away. Often the angst is unfounded, and they slip back into work without any problems.
Many employees realise they are happier once they return to work. They have people to talk to and they have their purpose back. Most employees don’t think of work as their ‘happy place’ and think to stay at home longer will make them happy. However, after going back, they often realise they were bored and unhappy at home. After returning to work they are able to take up hobbies and sport again.
Relationships go Back to Normal
Return to work can be good for relationships. Partners of injured employees can run out of patience after a while. If a partner's role was in the home before the injury, they might want their lifestyle back . Alternatively, home workers can feel unsupported if their previously working partner stays in bed in the morning with an injury.
It also sets a good example for children. They can see that despite their parent’s set back, mum or dad get on with life. Something they should do in later life if they encounter a similar problem.
A long absence from work can result in less support from colleagues on their eventual return.
How Return to Work can be Made Easier
With some strategies put in place, an injured employee can feel they are being supported and can make the transition back to work.
Easing Back into Work
Quite often the idea of going from no work to full-time is the scary part for injured workers. They are worried about not having the stamina to commit to a full day of travel and work after weeks of resting during the day. In this instance, workers can be reassured that they can start back on reduced hours. Often an employee will feel more comfortable by easing back into work by working the mornings only. Being able to build up their hours to eventually a full day is less daunting than being away from home for 10 hours on the first day.
Reaching Out to Injured Workers
Research indicates that the most important factor in a successful return to work for an employees is the way in which the workplace manages and supports their injured employee. In a busy workplace it can be that an injured worker is forgotten, or it's not considered appropriate to contact them when they are off work injured. Often the reality is the worker is keen to stay in touch and appreciate it when the workplace reaches out to them to show care and consideration in relation to their injury and whe the time is right to return to work.
Changing the Role
If an employee was injured at work, they might feel uneasy about returning to their previous role or task that caused the injury. A change to their role or responsibilities can take away the anxiety that they may injure themselves again.
Involves an experienced allied health professional, case managing an injured worker's injury and return to work process. This means assessing the injured worker, liaising with the workplace and case conferencing with the medical professionals involved in the medical treatment of the injured party to ensure a timely and appropriate return to health and to work. It can also mean liaising with the workplace's insurer and navigating the employer and injured worker through the complex Worker's Compensation process, if applicable to the injury.
If you would like more information about Workplace Rehabilitation and a Return to Work Strategy developed by a Consultant that understands injuries, contact PeopleSense on (08) 9388 9000 or 1300 366 979