Return to work, done right

A proactive approach helps employees return to work after an illness or injury as soon as they are able.

1. Realize the value of workplace accommodations

These can include effective options such as workstation adjustments, computer software or equipment, vehicle modification, or communication devices.

  • 59% of accommodations cost nothing, while the rest cost only an average of $500.1
  • 75% of employers who implemented accommodations said they were either “very” or “extremely effective.”2

2. Emphasize capabilities, not disabilities

Often, accommodations such as flexible hours, telecommuting and modified duties can help an employee gradually reenter the workplace.

3. Proactively consider return-to-work strategies

Look for opportunities to begin return-to-work efforts shortly after leaves begin. The longer employees remain away from work, the less likely they are to return.

4. Consider the many benefits of accomodations

When weighing cost or effort, factor in direct benefits such as:

  • Increasing productivity
  • Retaining valued employees
  • Eliminating the costs of hiring and training new employees

And don’t forget indirect benefits, which can improve:

  • Overall company morale
  • Attendance
  • Workplace safety

5. Turn to vocational rehabilitation specialists

These experts create personalized plans that can help those on short-term and long-term disability return to work quickly and safely.

6. Look for alternative return-to-work options

Help employees pursue a vocation that is a fit for them, even if they can’t return to their original position. Vocational rehabilitation specialists can assist those on disability in finding employment and regaining the skills and confidence they need.

7. Be prepared for potential pitfalls

Be aware of how coworkers are adjusting to altered work schedules. Stay on the lookout for any resentment they may have as a result of any necessary changes due to workplace accommodations. Individual return-to-work plans need to anticipate and plan for these concerns.

8. Evaluate your program carefully

When you evaluate the effectiveness of your return-to-work practices, remember that outliers such as one or two catastrophic claims can skew your results.

1 Accommodation and Compliance: Low Cost, High Impact, Job Accommodation Network, 2017.
2 See footnote 1.



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