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Commentary: How to Establish an Effective Return-to-Work Program

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A return-to-work program is a practical approach to returning injured employees to a safe and productive work environment. Although injured employees may be unable to perform their regular jobs, they can often do alternative, productive work while recovering fully from injuries.


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A return-to-work program can reduce the cost of lost time due to injuries and can keep an injured employee contributing to your organization. Injured employees who stay at work also receive support from co-workers and feel productive.
Companies of any size can implement and benefit from an effective return-to-work program.

Here are some tips for creating a successful program:

• Establish a few return-to-work jobs before they are needed.

•   Always consider job modification before injured employees have returned to their former job.

•    Allow recovering workers to ease into the full work routine.

•    Be positive and flexible. Emphasize what the employee can do.

•    Maintain a positive attitude toward the injured employee.

•    Have employees identify alternative productive work. 

Return-to-work programs often require modifying tasks or work sites to accommodate injured employees. These unexpected costs are a good investment for two reasons. First, they keep injured employees productive during recovery. Second, they can keep a company from losing experienced employees.

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