Category Archives: Return To Work

Psychosocial Barriers in Returning to Work Following an Injury

If you want to know whether your employees expect to return to work following an injury, try asking them! In a recent study, 530 injured employees rated their outlook in terms of anticipated recovery and ability to return to work. Of the 162 respondents who predicted that their injury would prevent them from returning to work, 96% never went back to the workplace. Their negative expectations became reality!

Because expectations and beliefs greatly affect an injured employee’s motivation to return to work, even the best return-to-work program can’t guarantee that injured employees will return to the workplace. Some of the factors that may negatively influence an employee’s outlook include inadequate understanding of the medical condition, unrealistic expectations about recovery, and fear that returning to work may create further injury.

There are also various psychological and social factors that can affect how an injured employee feels about returning to work, including:

  • Level of overall job satisfaction
  • Support at home and/or at work
  • Relationships with supervisor and colleagues
  • Beliefs about the cause of injury or pain

How can employers proactively tackle these concerns before an injury occurs?

  1. Build and maintain positive relationships with employees.  Open communication fosters positive relationships and leads to higher levels of workplace satisfaction. Encourage your employees to share their ideas and concerns with you to demonstrate that you are interested in their well-being and value their contributions.
  2. Flexibility can help motivate employees. Understand what motivates your employees and be prepared to create new options. Some employees seek new challenges while others may want more flexibility in terms of work hours or job tasks. In general, employee motivation may be greatly influenced by your willingness to share planning decisions and adjust work environments or job tasks. Employees who enjoy their jobs are typically loyal to their employers and more eager to return to their workplace after an injury. These principles also apply when establishing a transitional work assignment for an injured employee.
  3. Explain your company’s return-to-work policy. Make sure that all employees understand your company’s motivation and commitment to helping injured employees return to work safely after an injury. You will boost company morale by actively engaging your employees to assist and encourage their recovering co-workers.

Although severe injuries can prevent an employee from ever returning to work, the good news is that an employer can directly and positively impact an injured worker’s recovery outlook and outcomes.

Although the path back to work can sometimes seem like a minefield for both employers and injured workers, the highly trained clinicians and therapists at Workers Compensation Psychological Network are here to assist claims adjusters, employers and injured workers every step of the way.

Recovery: Sooner, Faster, Smarter 

Modified Duty: An Employer’s Silver Bullet

Time away from work can be frightening and debilitating for injured workers. They often begin to think of themselves as “disabled.” The longer they stay out of work, the harder it becomes to even approach getting back into the work routine. When that happens, depression and other mental health issues rear their heads.

Consequently, it is crucial to speed recovery through the use of modified duty, one of the most important tools an employer has to reduce lost time and costs. This is just as true for injuries compromised by behavioral or mental health issues as it is for the common slip and fall.

Modified duty is a bridge back to full duty, keeping workers active and part of the team. If you’re an employer, you should instruct your medical provider to focus on what the employee cannot do while injured, clearly delineating work restrictions.

To prove the point, for a moment, put yourself in the skin of the injured worker and imagine you are talking with your doctor about your injury. Would you want the doctor to list for you the potentially countless physical tasks you could actually still do while injured? Or, would you want the doctor to tell you the realistically few things you should not do? The latter approach is the one doctors prefer, too.

Once you have the medical restrictions, work with your supervisors to develop progressive, short-term transitional jobs and tasks. Most important, make sure that injured employees and supervisors carefully follow the physician’s restrictions: The goal is to speed recovery, not aggravate the condition and make things worse. As medical treatment continues and your medical provider gradually lifts restrictions, increase job demands to ease the employee back to his or her original job.

Until now, the traditional method for mental health clinicians to counsel injured workers was to approach the thing as if sitting on a two-legged stool. It was the clinician and the worker. Pretty precarious and often ineffective. But the clinicians and therapists at Workers Compensation Psychological Network know they are sitting on a solid, five-legged stool held up by the worker, the clinician, the employer, the claims adjuster and the medical provider. Our clinicians have been trained in the proper use of modified duty. They know that their job also involves helping the worker return to the workplace as soon as possible with appropriate medically supervised work restrictions.

And they will work with you to make that happen.

This is good for the worker and produces large cost savings for the employer.

That is one more way we keep our pledge to you: Recovery: Sooner -Faster – Smarter.


Workers’ Comp State Laws Can Lead To Depression For Injured Workers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index calculator, what you bought for $100 in 1973 would today cost $533.82. Despite this, during that same period wage growth for the median hourly worker grew by less that 4%. 

That’s how yesterday’s Workers’ Comp Insider’s blog post begins. Fifty States, Fifty Different Laws underscores the sobering reality that many hourly workers in America live perilously close the edge of the financial cliff, one crisis away from homelessness.

The Insider’s post analyzes “The Uncompensated Worker,” a Special Report from WorkCompCentral’s Peter Rousmaniere. The highly readable, but detailed, report illustrates how workers in every state take a pay cut when injured and out of work. Because all state laws are different, the pay cut can be minimal in a few states and catastrophic in many others.

At Workers Compensation Psychological Network, we see workers who, in addition to struggling to recover from a work injury, are also walking on the edge of an economic razor blade. These workers are deeply fearful that their injuries might lead to their families being forced to bunk under a bridge. Mr. Rousmaniere’s report shows that even short-term injuries can lead to deprivation. For instance, a 50-state chart at the end of the report shows that if an injured worker incurs only a brief disability – say, three, six or ten days – some of the provisions of New Jersey’s workers’ comp law (the calendar days waiting period before indemnity can begin, for example), will force a pay cut of 28% for that period.

As psychologists and neuropsychologists, we are mindful that helping these vulnerable people return to work as quickly as medically possible could spell the difference between financial stability and financial disaster. The mental health benefits of such an outcome are, quite frankly, immeasurable.

That’s why our overarching goal is now and always will be Recovery: Sooner, Faster, Smarter.