Some injured workers I encounter assume they must be off work to make a substantial recovery and that being injured is a barrier to returning to work. What we try and educate them is that work is a therapeutic intervention and is part of treatment. Even when work is uncomfortable and is difficult to perform some duties, it usually does not cause lasting damage to the injury and in actual fact improves recovery. While a workplace injury can have a major impact on your life, research has shown that returning to work is important for your health and wellbeing, as well as your recovery as part of your job hardening programme. However, you don’t have to make a full recovery or have finish medical treatment before you can return to work. In fact, a complete recovery is not often achieved before an injured worker returns to work. Statistically, the longer you are off work, the less chance you have of ever returning to work:
- 20 days off work, 70% chance of returning to work
- 45 days off work, 50% chance of returning to work
- 70 days off work, 35% chance of returning to work
A graduated return to work plan (GRTWP) is developed and agreed upon by the treating GP, employer, vocational rehabilitation consultant and the injured worker. A GRTWP is designed around the injured worker’s functional capacity, existing skills, experience and capabilities. It includes specific restrictions and recommendations for example lifting, standing, walking, sitting and driving restrictions, modified or alternative duties and/or the number of working days or hours per week recommended. A graduated increase in restrictions/ recommendations and setting a timeline will ensure a safe return to work for the injured worker by gradually building up their functional capacity and work tolerance.
Long term absence from work can affect you physically, socially, financially and psychologically The impacts include:
- Isolation from friends and work colleagues
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem – 6 times greater risk of committing suicide
- Loss of identity within the community
- Loss of social participation and fulfilment
- Impact on family
- Significant financial impact – worker’s compensation payments will not fully replace lost of wages
- Work conditioning, status, identity and contacts
- Confidence to perform in a workplace setting
- Promotion opportunities
How you can help yourself to return to work after a workplace injury:
- Act early and understand the most important person in your recovery is you!
- Keep positive and motivated – focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t
- Don’t wait until you are 100% recovered to return to work
- Work cooperatively with those involved in your return to work – GP, employer, vocational rehabilitation consultant and allied health professionals.
- Regularly review of your GRTWP and raise any issues or concerns immediately
The Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Absolute Balance plays a major role in your return to work. We assist to improve your functional capacity while matching the physical critical demands of your job role to your exercise rehabilitation programme, to ensure you return to work as quickly and safely as possible.
Daniel Nguyen (B.Sc. Exercise Physiology)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AES, AEP)(ESSAM)
Information for workers – Benefits of Reutnring to Work (2011). Return to Work Toolkit
Medicine, A. F. (2015). Realising the health benefits of work – An evidence update.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Position Statement on Realising the Health Benefits Work,
Bartley M, Sacker A, Schoon I, Kelly M, Carmona C. Work, non‐work, job satisfaction and psychological health: evidence review: Health Development Agency; 2005