Get the employee back to work

Unfortunately, too many employers see a temporary shift program, also known as a return to work, as a “do work” situation for both the employer and the injured employee. This approach to a return to work program often ends in frustration for both employer and employee.

A successful return to work program is much more. Having the right return to work attitude as well as understanding the various transition work programs are the first steps to a successful program.

Alternative or light programs

Alternative or light work assignments allow employees to work on less demanding jobs until they are physically able to resume their original work duties. For example, an employee who normally does physically demanding work may work in a more sedentary capacity, such as answering phones, marketing campaigns, or assisting younger or new employees

Changed service program

Here, the injured person’s original job is changed through technical changes to the workstation. Employers use these programs to prevent worsening of the injury. For example, an employer may install a high-rise desk. This can be used for an employee who cannot sit for long periods of time or for an employee with a back injury by adding seats with extra back support and footrests to alleviate discomfort.

Work hardening

“Work hardening” is the third type of transitional work program. In these programs, employees perform their usual job-related tasks in stages of increasing difficulty until they regain the physical ability necessary to perform their original job. This enables the injured employee to remain at work, albeit on reduced hours. This type of reassignment allows the employee to perform simulated tasks close to the task they would perform during their regular job duties.

Note: Design your Back to Work program to benefit both employer and employee. Try to provide a position that can act as a transitional position, even though the employee may not be able to quickly return to the exact same duties. The employee must work, and the company will provide a service. Try to make the return work a win win for everyone.

During the return to work process, companies must consider the employee’s physical limitations. If injured workers exceed their physical capabilities, they may experience a recurrence of the injury, causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the employee and unnecessary additional workers’ compensation costs to their employers. Although employers can use temporary work programs for temporary illnesses and injuries, it is important to remember that all leave and disability programs must be integrated with the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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