7 Ways to Improve Your Return to Work Program

improve return to work program

There are few things with a greater impact on the overall cost of risk than developing a quality return to work program.

At Rogue Risk, we protect your business by protecting your people. 

In the video (and post) below, we’re going to talk about how to improve your return to work program. 

There are seven factors in doing that…

1) Spot Check Health and Safety Behaviors

The first factor is operating a safe and healthy workplace, not just on paper, not just through our words but through our behaviors.

We can then track those behaviors through spot-checking. So our first method is to spot-check the behaviors that drive a safe and healthy workplace.

We need to ensure through actual spot-check reviews that our supervisors and managers are directing boots on the ground employees to take the necessary behaviors that create a safe and healthy work environment.

Too often what we find when we first engage with a new client is that they have lots of things written down on paper, but then they have no process or procedure for actually making sure that our employees are following those guidelines.

We help them put that in place, whether you work with Rogue or not, creating a culture of spot-checks to ensure behaviors and a safe culture that if someone is not operating in the right way, that you’re going to help get them there through training or reviews. You’re not just going to yell at them and tell them to do it differently.

You want to create an environment where people are doing the things that you know is going to create a safe and healthy work environment that will, in general, just create fewer injuries but it will also establish a culture that when an injured employee comes back, they’ll fit into a system that is ready for them, that they’re not trying to negotiate around continued dangerous situations.

2) Offer Modified Work Duties

The second way to improve your return to work program is to offer a modified list of work functions. That means actually having a list of job duties.

That list can be 10, 20, it can be as many job functions as you think are possible inside of your business, and then tracking that against a list of injuries that can potentially do those job functions, so that you can sit down during the re-acclimation process of an injured worker and talk through the various functions that they could potentially engage in based on the injury that they sustained.

This establishes for that injured employee that there is a path for them to return, that they can get back to work, that they can start to feel like part of the team again.

It also allows supervisors and boots on the ground employees, their peers that they’re going to be working alongside, it allows them to have an understanding of what that employee’s capabilities are going to be once they come back into the team, which is an important part of continuing that culture that’s so important to a safe and healthy work environment.

Click the button below to download a sample Alternative Return to Work Worksheet which provides a template for outlining possible alternative and modified work duty options for injured employees based on type of injury. 

Use this worksheet as a guide in building out your formalized return to work program.

3) Create A Return To Work Workflow Guide

Return to work program improvement number three is to have a workflow document that is circulated to all employees and hopefully updated on an as needed and regular basis. 

What this workflow document does is explain exactly what happens when an employee gets injured, what the process is for both notifying for initial notifications, getting that injured employee taken care of immediately, and then the process of bringing them back into the business, and timetables for what that may look like.

Again, with every injury, with every employee, situations are going to vary, so this isn’t a set in stone type of document, but it certainly gives everyone from peers to management an understanding of the process and what should be expected and the various stages that an injured employee is going to go through, both from the time of injury to the time they come back to a modified function, to backed up, to full operational employment.

Again, it’s all about creating a culture where people are understanding of injuries and accepting of employees coming back into the business at different time tables with different percentages of full functionality and it limits animosity. 

It limits frustration and misunderstanding and helps facilitate communication inside your company.

4) Include Supervisors In Return To Work Planning

Return to work program improvement number four is get the supervisors of that employee, any supervisor who’s going to be working with that injured employee when they come back on a modified basis, get them involved in the re-acclimation process as early and as thoroughly as possible. 

You want them to understand what this person’s injury is, what things they’ll be doing when they come back. 

Maybe they have some input into how that person can be as productive as possible while still operating inside the nature of their injury.

By getting supervisors on board early and often, you get their buy-in, you get their input, and you ultimately turn them into ambassadors for that injured employee as they start to re-acclimate into your business.

5) Early Contact With Injured Workers

Return to work program improvement number five, contact the employee early with an understanding of what their injury is. 

Obviously different injuries are going to give people time depending on the type of injury. But as soon as is appropriate, reach out to that employee, get a feel for how they are, let them know that the organization is thinking about them, considering them. 

Let them know that the organization wants them back in and is going to help them as much as they can become part of the business again.

When you’re injured, oftentimes all that you want is to get your life going again, and you don’t want to be sitting at home. You want to be part of the team. 

You want to feel like you have purpose and meaning. 

When a company can reach out early and let that employee know that they want them back in a very appropriate way, it improves the process in general because everyone gets aligned and starts pushing in the same direction.

6) Have A Return To Work Program Owner

Return to work program improvement number six, have a return to work program owner, someone who just owns this process, all these documents that we’ve talked about, all these communications, whether it’s someone in the HR function, someone in the management function. 

For smaller organizations, this may be something that is part of someone’s job. 

Maybe they’re a team, maybe there’s a committee that handles return to work stuff. It all depends on how frequently injuries happen at your place of work, but maybe a committee gets all the documents initially done and then an individual is able to handle things on an ongoing basis. 

But having someone or a group of people who are responsible for this program greatly improves its effectiveness and efficiency.

7) Information Exchange With Healthcare Provider

The last return to work program improvement number seven is having information exchange and open comms with healthcare providers, regardless of what type of care is being done for that injured employee, that injured worker, understanding who their doctors are, who their physicians are, who their healthcare providers are, being able to exchange information with them, get them any documents they need, and vice-versa, understanding what that person is capable of, helping understand what their limitations are. 

These types of communications greatly improve the process as a whole because there’s no misunderstanding as to what a worker is capable of. 

It also reduces any potential adversarial nature in these relationships. 

Again, it’s all about creating a culture of acceptance, understanding, get people pointing in the same direction.

The Rub

From our experience here at Rogue Risk, in the vast majority of cases, what everybody wants, the injured employee, the business, healthcare providers, family members, what everyone wants is to get that injured worker back to 100% of their job functionalities as quickly as possible, and having a smooth, consistent, documented return to work program can get that done for everyone.

I know this is complex stuff. I know it seems like a lot. I hope it helps you. 

Please download that sample worksheet that I suggested above.

If your current insurance professional has never addressed issues such as total cost of risk or return to work programs with you before, then I’d encourage you to reach out to us today.

I look forward to introducing you to a new way of viewing your insurance program.

Thank you,

Ryan Hanley

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