Great news! Your injured worker is finally returning to work. This is a significant milestone in the injured worker’s journey since the accident or issue arose. But if not prepared for it well, it can have disastrous results, such as the worker going back off work, blow-out of timeframes, or significant breakdown in the employee-employer relationship – all of which could impact the claim cost and your worker’s compensation premium.
In our 20 years working in this space, we have seen a lot of very successful and unsuccessful return to work of injured employees. Some employers do it very well and others, well, let’s just say, not so well. Often, it is the little things that make a big difference to how smoothly an injured worker’s return to work goes.
So, what is it the successful ones do so well? Cue the drum roll….
It comes down to ‘hearts and minds’, to how people feel, and the relationship between the employee and the employer. Whilst every injured worker’s injury and job is different, their fundamental needs as a human being are not. Ultimately, they want to feel cared for, understood, and supported. That’s it!
Let’s explore this a little further. Here are our top 7 strategies you can implement to make sure you are well prepared for your injured worker returning to work. And the best thing is, most of them will cost you nothing!
- Show you care! Start by contacting the employee a few days before they return to the workplace (ideally you have kept in touch whilst they were off work anyway). The employee is bound to be nervous about seeing their team members and performing their role, whether it is the original, adjusted, or new role within the business. This will give you a chance to address any of their concerns beforehand, advise them of any major changes, and put them at ease before their return;
- Advise the employee’s direct manager and the immediate team of their first day back and inspire the team to make them feel welcomed. Inform the team of any changes to the employee’s role, duties, or responsibilities, how long these may last, any impact they may have on the other team members, and what support is needed from them. This allows the team to raise any concerns beforehand and elevates questions away from the employee, minimising any resentment or confrontations when the employee returns;
- On the first day back, plan out the employee’s ‘first’ moments, such as the first interaction with the team or other colleagues, first team meeting, first lunch break, and first goodbye. Perhaps arrange to meet the employee outside the building or meet up for a coffee before starting and walk into the workplace together – this is particularly helpful if the employee has experienced a psychological injury or is anxious about their return;
- Appoint a buddy or someone to provide moral support and keep their eye on the employee outside of the reporting line. Sometimes a manager not positioned in the same work area may miss signals of distress and you want to catch these before they become a problem;
- Encourage the employee to participate in your business’ wellness program and re-introduce them to your Employee Assistance Program if you have one;
- Consider conducting an ergonomics assessment on their first day back to make them comfortable and to protect the employee from further injury or harm. It also shows the business cares about the employee to make them at ease and safe;
- Be open to some flexibility initially around attending medical appointments or treatment whilst they fully recover from their injury.
So, next time you have an injured worker returning to work, try implementing these strategies to prepare for and maximise the success of their return to work. Your Workplace Rehabilitation Provider can also assist you in this process. If you want to know more about how workplace rehabilitation can help you with these strategies click here workplace rehabilitation program.
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