How to Make Returning to Work After an Injury Easier

Achieving Goals, Confidence, Overcoming Fear
07/31/19 - Susan Ranford
someone drinking coffee before returning to work

We tend to spend a huge chunk of our time at work (more than one-third of each day). It’s safe to say that our work defines us as people. When everything is going well at work then chances are that most other parts of your life will prosper as well. That is why it’s important to not only be happy but also safe when you are at work. It’s my experience in human resources that without happy humans, you don’t have worthwhile resources. With that said, it’s important to keep workers happy and most importantly safe. 

Every 7 seconds, someone suffers an injury at work. In fact, 25% of workplace injuries include slips and falls that could potentially cause serious injury. A serious injury isn’t the only kind of injury that workers face in the workplace. There are many different kinds of trauma that can occur in the course of doing your job. When any type of work injury occurs, you will need time to recuperate; time away from work to get healed and fit for duty again.

How to Ease Back to Work After an Injury

Returning to work after an injury isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think. Even though your doctor may say that you have reached the right level of medical improvement to resume your duties, you may not actually be fully fit to return to the full scope of your previous job just yet. The main stumbling blocks might be psychological or you simply might not have a full range of motion yet. 

Either way, if the doctor says you are good to go, failing to show up or carry out your duties as directed by the bosses might lead to your losing your worker’s compensation benefits. Whether your employer has a fantastic return to work policy that goes a long way in helping you transition back or you just have to figure it out as you go along, the best thing to do is to look after your own interests. 

Here are some tips that will help make things easier for you when you return to work after an injury: 

number one

Be Very Clear on Your Work Restrictions

Your doctor will only give you the green light to go back to work provided you stick to a strict work restrictions schedule. This means that, until you are fully fit and acclimatized, there are certain duties that will be outside of your scope. Yes, some of these duties will be things that you used to do every day; things within your job description. 

Be sure to be very clear about these work restrictions and to follow them to the letter. Have a copy of these work restrictions with you. Hand one to your employer as well as your workers’ compensation representative. 

You have to be very careful about these restrictions. Should you refuse to perform a duty that is within your work restriction, you could end up losing your workers’ compensation benefits. Going above and beyond this restriction list could cause you further injury or trauma and this time you will be liable. 

talking about returning to work from an injury and chatting about limitations with your boss
number 2

Discuss Your Options with Your Employer

While the letter from your doctor does list your temporary or permanent limitations when it comes to your work, there are some issues that may be personal to you. Issues that aren’t listed on your work restrictions sheet. The best way to deal with these issues is to talk to your employer about your options. Maybe you could:

  • Start by working fewer hours.
  • Work days instead of nights. 
  • Take longer and more frequent breaks. 
  • Have special office equipment such as ergonomic chairs put in. 

Of course, most of the things you can discuss and agree on really depends on how accommodating your employer is when it comes to such matters. It wouldn’t hurt to have the conversation. 

number three

Ask for Help When You Need it

Even though you will be tempted to push yourself hard when you return to work after an injury, you need to remember that you have to take it easy for a few weeks before you are fully adjusted to the regular stresses of the workplace. Don’t push too hard and ask for help whenever you need it, especially when it comes to lifting heavy objects. 

number four

Don’t Go Back to Work Until You Are Ready

It’s natural to feel antsy about getting back to work, especially when you have been spending all your days in bed with nothing to do but “rest”. Sometimes, you will feel as though you are ready to go back to work but unless your doctor clears you for duty, do not go back to work! Going back before you’re ready could lead to a myriad of issues:

  • You could get re-injured.
  • It could hamper your healing process. 
  • You could wind up losing your workers’ compensation benefits. 

Returning to work before you are fully fit to do so is just asking for trouble. 

not returning to work until you're ready. it's okay to take your time.
number five

Embrace the Struggle

If you have a wonderful employer who is willing to accommodate all your needs, there is a good chance that you will have an easy time returning to work. That, however, does not mean that you won’t struggle. Depending on the kind of injury you suffered, your body and mind will need a little time to readjust to “real life” at the workplace. Take your time and embrace the struggle. It’s okay to go slowly and accept that you aren’t super-human.

Going back to work after an injury is all about taking it easy. Read and stick to your work restrictions and find out what your employer’s return to work policy entails. Remember, that returning to work after an injury will be a process and to not overwhelm yourself by hitting the ground running. Build a support system to help you get through the transition. Having friends and family who will support and cheer you on during the process will make a significant impact on your full recovery. 

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Susan Ranford

Susan Ranford is an expert on career coaching, business advice, and workplace rights. She has written for New York Jobs, IAmWire, and ZipJob.

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