Returning to work after injury

After suffering an injury, the thought of returning to work can seem like a mountain too high to climb.

You may have spent time resting, having tests, receiving physiotherapy treatment, seeking the advice of a consultant or possibly having surgery. So what happens when the heat of inflammation settles and you are starting to think about returning to work?

It is well documented that work is good for health and that a return is often advisable as soon as it is safe to do so. This can mean that your symptoms may not have completely resolved at the time of returning to work.

There are few things that you can discuss with your line manager which may make your return to work easier and more successful.

Here are the most common supportive measures:

Phased return of hours

Slowing down the return of hours can be very useful when returning to work after a musculoskeletal injury. This may involve working less hours per day or week for a short period of time, or perhaps mixing up time spent in the office versus time working from home. Phasing your return to work can help you return sooner than when you are 100% better, which allows you to reap all the benefits that working has on your health. The idea is that you would then return to your full contractual hours within a set time period. If this is something you think would benefit you then do speak with your employer as this may affect your pay if there is not a specific sickness absence policy or guidance outlining financial support with this.

Shift adjustments

Shift workers who do a range of short days, long days and night working may need some temporary adjustments to the type and frequency of their shifts. After an injury it may be best to stagger out your shifts so that you have a break in between to allow you to rest and complete your exercises. Alternatively, consideration can also be given to the types of shift as more hands may be on deck to help with tasks in day shift, or some shifts may involve less of your aggravating activities.

Duty amendments

Lastly, but equally important, is having a think about the types of tasks that are required at work and what you physically need to be able to do to complete them. For example, a desk based data entry role requires long duration of sitting or pushing a wheelchair requires you to be able to push without pain.

Returning to work focusing on what you can do is a positive way to re-enter the workplace. It may be sensible to avoid large volumes of tasks that you know aggravate your symptoms. This supportive measure should again be temporary to help you pace back into your work and gradually reintroduce the more difficult tasks.

All of the above strategies need to be discussed and agreed with your employer and it is best to be transparent and forward planning when it comes to what you feel you can manage. Often once you are back to work, you will be surprised as to what you can actually manage.

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