Returning to Work – How to be Successful

Returning to Work

No matter what the circumstance, returning to work after significant time off can be initially overwhelming. There are many reasons employees take leaves off work: physical and mental disabilities, injuries, pregnancy, family emergencies and many more. Whatever the reason, the return to work process does not have to be intimidating or overwhelming. There are multiple resources that Gowan Consulting offers to assist an employee in their return to work journey. Gowan Consulting offers professional assistance to the employees who are returning to work. Our Occupational Therapists will complete necessary assessments with the employee to determine the best method of returning to work. Furthermore, we provide education to the employees regarding skills to ensure success with staying at work. Below are some of the strategies necessary to ensure a safe, timely and sustainable return to work.

Principles of Return to Work

There are several principles of the return to work process that must be considered and followed for a successful return to work. Here are a few key factors to keep in mind when initiating a return to work.

  • A safe and timely return to work is in the best interest of the worker and the organization
  • Early intervention is critical
  • Maintaining a positive approach to disability
  • Having meaningful goal-oriented work that matches the employee’s capabilities
  • Appropriate compensation for work completed
  • Resolve crossing union jurisdictional boundaries before returning to work
  • Return to work plan must recognize the employee’s diminished capabilities and not compromise recovery
  • Ensure general workplace safety is not compromised (Dyck, 2013)

Creating a Return to Work Plan

Creating a plan for returning to work must start with developing a job match in the workplace. If the employee is still a match for their previous position, start the return to work plan with all stakeholders. In the case of the previous position no longer being a match, attempt to make it a match. Determine if accommodations can be made, training can be provided, if job coaching is an option or if the employee requires ongoing rehabilitation to return to the position. If alterations to the job are not optional, assist the employee with finding an alternative position within the workplace that better suits their skills and needs. Once a job match has occurred, a return to work plan can be created and will include the following:

  • Actual dates, times and breaks
  • Duties and productivity expectations
  • Modifications
  • Equipment – who will ensure it is in place
  • Expectations of all parties
  • Signatures of agreed plan

A solid plan will be individualized to the employee and provides meaningful, goal-oriented work. Strong plans start slow and progress gradually to allow the employee time to adjust to the work environment. Plans should be flexible to employee needs with regular contact and evaluation of progress to ensure the employee is moving forward in the right direction. (Gowan, 2016)

Assistance with Return to Work

The return to work process is not always easy, but we believe it is always worth it. Gowan Consulting can provide professionals to your workplace to assist with creating a return to work plan, facilitating a return to work meeting and providing return to work support. Upon a full return to work, our Occupational Therapists can provide stay at work strategies to give the employee confidence that relapse will not occur. If you’re interested in learning more about the return to work process, Gowan Consulting has several education sessions available. We are currently offering our new and improved Mental Health and Return to Work Workshop in September 2018! Register now to learn all the latest information regarding mental health in the workplace and assisting employees with mental illness concerns with returning to and staying at work! If you are unable to attend our workshop, an alternative resource is our webinars! We have multiple return to work themed webinars, including Disability Management, Chronic Pain and Return to Work, Complex Return to Work, Return to Work Facilitation and Planning and many more. Click here to check out all of the webinars we offer!

Make a referral or contact us to learn more about all the ways we can assist you in the workplace!


Works Cited

Dyck, D (2013) Disability Management Theory, Strategy and Industry Practice, 5th Edition, Lexis Nexis, Canada.

Gowan, N (2016) Human Resources Guide to Managing Disability in the Workplace, 2nd edition, Carswell, Toronto.


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