Archive for February, 2013

Why Bring Them Back?

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Image courtesy of marin // FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many manages resist bringing workers back to work from WSIB as soon as possible. One main reason is because they mistakenly think that the injured employee will “cost” them double the salary – the company has to pay the injured worker, but also have to pay another employee to pick up the slack. Managers also cite that fellow employees may get the wrong idea, and think that a WSIB claim is a great way to get paid for doing nothing. There is a fear that co-workers may want to take a try at “light duties”, or that the injured worker will make “light duties” their full-time work.

Yet there are very real reasons to bring injured workers back as soon as possible. First off, there are the cost-savings from WSIB. Every day a worker is off because of an injury, WSIB costs are rising. On average, a week off work can thousands, and over the course of a claim, costs can become astronomical. So while a company may need to bring in extra help to cover the gaps between the work that needs to get done and the restrictions of an injured worker, it makes financial sense to bring people back to work.
Secondly, there are social reasons to bring injured workers back. It seems to be a fairly well-established concept that the longer people are away from the workplace, the more difficulty they have reintegrating upon return. Injured workers experience a wide variety of emotions that impact them when they return to work.
Fear: There is a real potential that co-workers are not supportive, especially if work restrictions make co-workers work more to pick up the slack. Or, co-workers may believe that the injured worker is “faking it” or “milking it” by overstating the extent of their injury. It is imperative that managers watch to make sure the injured worker is not “guilted” into working beyond their restrictions, and also to balance the needs of the workplace with its workforce.
Guilt: Workers who return to work with restrictions often feel a sense of guilt that their co-workers have to pick up the duties that fall outside of restrictions. Managers need to be aware of this emotion, and to plan the best way to balance the workload. Just because one worker cannot perform a certain task does not mean work from co-worker cannot be shifted to make sure that workload is even.
Embarrassment: Returning to work can be difficult. And if the injured worker is embarrassed by their restrictions, physical appearance, or the way they injured themselves, it will be difficult to help them through the process. It is important for managers to remain sensitive and to never allow others to ridicule or tease workers about their injury. I once heard a manager joke with others about a man who wet his pants during an accident. This is totally uncalled for, demeaning, and very unhelpful in creating a work environment that is supportive to people returning to work.
Anger: When a human being can no longer perform tasks previously performed, there may be growing frustration and anger. Somehow we equate our value by our physical prowess, and when we become dependent upon others for help, we may see ourselves as weak.
By remaining sensitive and aware of the potential emotions involved in return to work programs, managers can facilitate the process better, faster, and with greater success. Return to work plans are not simply a matter of assigning work according to restrictions. It also involves open communication, monitoring, and measuring results. Call us to see if your return to work program is working as well as it could.

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