Do you have light duty workers in your workplace? Here’s everything that an employer needs to include in a prudent return to work plan for their employees.
Returning to work after a significant injury that caused an extended hiatus is one of the biggest challenges an employee can face during their career.
Not only does the employee fall out of practice performing their job, but they’ll also have to deal with the medical implications of their injury. This can include an impact on their physical and psychological health and workplace performance.
That’s why it’s essential that you, as an employer, put together a rock-solid return to work plan that will make the process as smooth and seamless as possible. The trouble is, however, that most employers aren’t familiar with proper procedures for a return to a work situation.
Thus, they aren’t prepared to build a good return to work plan when their employee needs one.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. We’re here to help. In this article, you’ll learn all about what should go into a successful return to work plan.
Timing is Everything
The first thing to keep in mind is that timing is everything.
The time to send your employees a return to work plan is not always as soon as they get injured! Instead, you want to be empathetic and understanding of your employee’s physical and mental condition before you start talking about work productivity.
Depending on the severity of the injury and the length of the recovery period, you may want to wait a few weeks before discussing the return to work plan with the employee. ̨Either way, make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the employee’s mental state before bringing this up, as you could put too much pressure on the employee by bringing it up too early.
The flip side of this conversation, however, is that you can’t be too late with the plan either.
If you wait too long, your employees may start looking for employment opportunities elsewhere or fall so far out of practice that they are no longer motivated to be productive. To nail the timing, you’ll have to find a balance between putting pressure on the employee and motivating them to return.
Goals of the Return to Work Plan
The first thing that should go on your return to work plan is a list of the goals it’s meant to achieve. What is the future state that your return to work plan hopes to accomplish with the employee?
Should your employee return to his or her usual position with all the same roles and responsibilities as before their hiatus? Or is it best that the employee trains for a new job that is more fitting for them?
Don’t leave these details out of their return to work plan. And, make sure that the employee is on board with the overall goals, or they won’t be motivated to follow through with it. A service like Light Duty Pathway can help you formulate these goals.
The next item to include in your return to work plan is a list of all objectives that the employee should achieve over the course of the plan’s implementation. This includes things such as new skills the employee will need to train, contacts that the employee may need to build, et cetera.
Remember that a good objective is one that is as tangible and measurable as possible.
Once you have the goals for the return to work plan and the objectives that the employee is to accomplish nailed down, it’s time to break those goals and aspirations down into time-based milestones.
This will ensure that your employee doesn’t try to cram in all of their training right at the end of their hiatus. Instead, they should be following along with the plan over time so that they’re able to implement each step of it correctly and without pressure.
Supplementary Resources and Personnel
Whenever someone is coming back from an injury, the chances are that their confidence will be reduced. They’ll be worried about being capable enough to do the job that they used to perform, and that lack of confidence may shoot them in the foot as they try to return to work.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you supply ample supplementary resources and personnel during this time to your injured employee. Let them know that you’re making all of the necessary accommodations to help them through this period, and let their coworkers and team members know how to support them.
Also, by defining these resources and personnel explicitly, you can prevent the returning employee from attempting to lean on the wrong staff or utilize resources that have other purposes.
Last but not least, your return to work plan should include some expectations regarding communication from the employee.
Remember that as an employee recovers, even simple things like sending in emails and attending phone calls can put a lot of mental pressure on them. Thus, they may not be inclined to be in constant communication with their department.
By defining communication expectations in your return to work plan, you can ensure that the employee knows exactly how much he or she needs to do to keep the company in the loop. Having that bar set for them will enable them to complete communication requirements without worrying about not being able to keep up.
Now that you know how to build your return to work plan make sure that you remember this one golden rule: be empathetic. Be understanding of your employees during this difficult time. And, remember that when something significant happens in their personal life, the workplace is often the last thing on their minds.
As long as you stay compassionate and understanding while also providing them with the motivation they need to return to work, you’ll keep your employees happy and productive and will have them ready to achieve their full potential again someday soon.
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