Following a workplace injury, an employee requiring physical therapy may be dealing with more than just rehabilitation. With the ultimate goals of feeling better and getting back to work, here are five factors that can negatively impact the foundation of your return-to-work program.

Injured workers returning to work commonly face many hurdles

After a work injury or illness, the two things most employees want to accomplish as soon as possible are: 1) to feel better, and 2) to get back to work. Sometimes, this is less than simple to achieve. From the psychological factors associated with a disability to the relationship between an injured worker and his or her employer, here are some of the common hurdles that may undermine the efficacy of your return-to-work program.

Unintended Consequences of Corporate Policies

Some companies strongly discourage or even completely ban communication between employers and workers suffering from illness or injury. But this approach cuts these employees off from their workplace and does little to make their return to work easier. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, supportive conditions at work are extremely important factors impacting an employee’s ability to return to work after an injury. These include being made to feel welcomed back, social support, and quality of leadership.

Severity and Nature of the Disability

Although temporary disabilities usually require a relatively short rehabilitation period and limited modifications before an employee is able to return to their duties, severe illnesses and injuries will likely demand longer rehabilitation time and a more gradual return to work. These more serious cases may result in a permanent disability or a complete inability to return to the previous job.

Psychosocial and Psychological Considerations

Disability can have a major impact on a worker’s mental health, resulting in depression, personality changes, and frustration when the individual suffers a loss of income as well as the social contact that accompanies employment. The employee may be apprehensive about returning to work, afraid of re-injury. If someone has been out of work for an extended period of time, they might feel isolated from their colleagues and find it difficult to adjust to full-time employment again.

Another psychological factor is the employee’s relationship with the employer. Feeling unappreciated or that he or she has little value in the workplace can be a major factor in a worker’s willingness to complete rehabilitation and return to work.

Challenges of the Workplace Environment

The way a workplace is set up, as well as the nature of the work performed, can make it difficult for an employer to make the modifications necessary to allow an injured worker to return to the job. Some supervisors know little about the technology available to assist a worker with a disability. The employer may be unwilling to modify the work environment or job duties during the recovery period. Smaller organizations may have limited resources and lack the experience and personnel necessary to make the accommodations that will help ensure a successful return to work.

Absence of Return-to-Work Planning

Return-to-work planning involves more than making accommodations for an injured worker’s physical limitations. The plan must ensure that support is provided for the returning worker without causing disadvantages to colleagues and supervisors, or feelings of resentment toward the returning worker may result. If this happens, the returning worker will not only have to deal with their own physical restrictions, but also resentment from co-workers who think the injured worker has been rewarded with an easier job, or supervisors who are under pressure to meet production quotas. Some colleagues and even supervisors may doubt whether a person with disabilities will be able to do the job or make a meaningful contribution, particularly if the disability is related to mental health or substance abuse.

Getting Back to Work With the Help of CORA Physical Therapy

Getting your employees back to work and back to life is what we do best! Our work comp division is the pride of our team. We are well-versed in helping workers with job-specific tasks, and our clinicians take great pride in communicating at all levels of the process with employers, case adjusters, and case managers.

As a comprehensive rehabilitation provider, patients and case managers enjoy working with us. Our workers’ compensation division can handle all types of injuries from the simple to the very complex and may include Functional Capacity Evaluations and Work Conditioning Programs.

We offer a full range of cutting-edge services for our clients, including the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. For help developing an effective return-to-work program, contact one of our clinics in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia.

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