Engaging an Ageing Workforce in Return to Work (RTW) [Part 1]

At Absolute Balance our Accredited Exercise Physiologists are at the ‘front line’ of engaging ageing workers into clinical exercise rehabilitation and return to work (RTW).

What separates our clinicians is a focus on the cognitive preparedness as well as the biophysical return to functional capacity. Our clinicians employ an evidence-based model with a ‘change behaviour strategy’ to assist our injured workers return to optimal function and ultimately RTW faster and sooner. How do we do this you ask? We have adapted a model used from the military:

Simplify their diagnosis

The idea of this approach came from the observation that ominous sounding diagnostic terminology, combined with sophisticated tests and treatments for fairly minor problems, strengthened the belief of serious illness. Problems occur when simple uncomplicated conditions are treated in a complicated manner.

An example: When patients with back pain are treated intensively, such as the use of CT and MRI scans, their condition may be labelled as a disc degeneration, making them believe they are suffering from a serious ailment. To help prevent these “system induced’ complications, we focus on using simple and uncomplicated terms, and avoided diagnostic labelling. Our clinicians indicate that reassurance and advice were often more effective in the longer term; and banned the use of some terms (particularly at the first initial assessment). They point out that on many occasions the pathology findings are incidental and should not be used as an explanation for the person’s pain or soreness. Also many degenerative changes on MRI are normal with ageing.

Proximity (early employer intervention)

If we were to remove the individual from their colleagues and any social work connection,  the outcomes were worse. When they treated their clients and quickly engaged them with their respective employers and in their normal environment with a supportive approach and uncomplicated treatment, results were improved.

Removing people from their normal environment, such as the workplace, carries the risk of alienating the person from everyday activities, workplace relations, and increases uncertainty. Immediate contact with staff, and assistance with improving morale, safety, and the general level of fitness of those in the workforce, is recommended

Immediate Action

This reflects the need to deal with issues in a timely manner with immediate treatment, improving a workers outcome/s. Application of this principle includes:

Early treatment

Helping people avoid delays in obtaining treatment

Recognising that returning people to meaningful modified duty, and then full duty as quickly as possible, reduces disability

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this adapted model in June. For further information on how we can assist your workforce feel free to email us at info@absolutebalance.com.au or call (08) 9244 5580.

Ryan O’Connor

Director & Accredited Exercise Physiologist