When each week brings news of mass workforce layoffs, returning individual disabled employees to work might not seem like a priority.
On the surface, it could appear that spending on return-to-work (RTW) initiatives in tough economic times is a luxury that downsizing organizations cannot afford.
However, the opposite is the case. In a recessionary economy, it is even more important for a company to have a strong and effective RTW focus than in robust economic times.
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With todays sharply curtailed workforces, companies are forced to maximize productivity with existing staff. In the booming 1990s, when an employee was out on a disability, a fellow employee could fill in. Thats no longer the case.
Employees are already working to more than a full capacity and cannot absorb the excess work of an absent co-worker.
When workers arent on the job, companies feel the impact. According to industry estimates, the direct and indirect costs of absenteeism range from 12% to 18% of payroll. Those figures are particularly painful in times of belt-tightening.
Structured RTW programs help–by minimizing the costs of having workers off the job. They bring disabled employees back to the workplace, even in a transitional capacity, as soon as safely possible.
What should a RTW program include?
Case management. Case managers are an important link between the disabled worker, employer and the physician. They coordinate care, ensure that treatment is appropriate and that health care providers understand available RTW options, and help keep the lines of communication open between employers and disabled employees.
Employees who have access to a nurse case manager during their absence are 22% more likely to ask their supervisor about returning to work, according to our research. Similarly, disabled employees who have regular conversations with their manager are more satisfied with their experience than those who have minimal contact and are back on the job in half the time.