A kind word and a willing ear are important elements in any return-to-work program; however, for maximum benefit they need to be coupled with one of several protocols that have proven effective: work rehabilitation, work conditioning, work hardening or transitional work programs.
Work rehabilitation is a catch-all term but at its core is a concept designed to restore independence at work and enhance worker satisfaction. This will often include the use of an occupational therapist that can bring a wide range of skills to help an injured worker – either to get back to work or one who has returned to work but is struggling to resume his or her full duties.
Occupational therapists evaluate and understand the impact of wellness, cognition, physical disabilities, psychosocial factors, and medical conditions on work performance. They can also identify problems (and recommend solutions) in the work environment that make rehab take longer.
Another approach similar to work rehabilitation is work conditioning. In this approach, the focus for the occupational therapist is on restoring the work performance skills of those recovering from long-term injury or illness. This is done most often through circuit training and work simulation that occurs three to five days per week for two to four hours per session.
Work hardening is yet another approach --similar to work conditioning, however it is multidisciplinary and can involve psychomedical counseling, ergonomic evaluation, job coaching, and/or transitional work services. Daily treatment is common, anywhere from two to four hours per day. Work-hardening clients can progress to transitional work programming with actual performance of job duties.
In acute injury and illness management, the occupational therapist works with the employee to determine gaps between the job demands and his or hers existing performance abilities and then remediates or compensates for the differences. The therapist will also determine the history of the current condition or injury and then develop a comprehensive and individualized plan to address problem areas.
Transitional work programs use the actual work tasks and environments as a form of rehabilitation. Here, the employee may start with a more limited range of tasks and performs what he or she can safely and dependably perform at work.
To explain these approaches in detail takes more space than we have here and we work with professionals who can explain them more effectively, but here’s the bottom line: a return-to-work program that truly works requires care and investment, planning and follow-through, however the payoff is well worth it.
*Patriot Underwriters, Inc. conducts insurance business in all of its licensed states as PUI INSURANCE AGENCY