How to Become a Return-to-Work Guru

One of your client’s best employees sustained an injury on the job and is going to miss three months of work as she recovers and rehabilitates. You can tell your client is very concerned about her well-being, the morale of her teammates, and how her absence impacts their business as a whole. The claim is being handled, but what can be done to ensure a smooth recovery and return-to-work process for the injured employee?

Your client is far from alone in this scenario. According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019. Of those, 888,220 were nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work in 2019.

The National Safety Council reports that the total costs to businesses in 2019 resulting from work injuries was $171 billion. Insurance premiums and workers compensation is just one of those costs. The BLS says there are 3.4 workers comp claims filed for every 100 full-time employees. To save productivity losses, prevent injuries and get injured workers back to work more quickly, there are several strategies companies can implement.

Effective Return-to-Work Strategies Following an Injury

There are many factors that play into how quickly a worker can return to his or her duties following an injury. Companies that can implement the following actions can get injured employees back to work quicker and face fewer productivity losses. 

  • Stay engaged: One of the most important aspects in ensuring an injured worker returns to work as soon as possible is active communication with that worker. Staying engaged with an injured employee allows them to feel they are still part of the workplace team and provides more motivation for them to return to work. Employers should also be in continuous contact with the employee’s medical team to understand how treatment is progressing. When an employer stays connected on these levels, it illustrates to the employee that their employer cares, resulting in faster return-to-work rates in many cases. 
  • Have an efficient workers comp claim process in place: Research shows that the faster the insurer receives notice of an injury and can initiate medical treatment, the sooner the injured worker recuperates and returns to work — and the less likely he or she is to seek out an attorney for help in dealing with a claim. Studies also suggest that most people want to return to productive employment as soon as possible. Technology has enhanced procedures to speed up the “first notice of claim” filing process to the workers compensation administrative office.
  • Ensure a streamlined return to work policy: An organization’s RTW policy should not only be clear and consistent, but should have input and support from managers and employees alike. For each job category within a company, the policy should note potential temporary light-duty assignments. An RTW policy can provide several benefits to an organization, including:
  • Help controlling the direct and indirect absenteeism costs
  • Reducing lost productivity
  • Not having to train replacement workers
  • Maintaining the skill sets of your valuable employees
Man On Leg Rehabilitation
When employers keeps an open line of communication with the injured employee and their care team during the absence, it often results in faster return-to-work times and fosters a strong care-centered culture.

How to Streamline the Return-to-Work Process

While there are basic return-to-work templates and outlines available for companies to use, having a tailored, streamlined approach to getting employees back to work as soon as possible following an injury or illness is most efficient. The following should be considered to do just that:

  • Have a dedicated third-party administrator or insurance provider — Collaboration with a TPA or insurance provider with a strong RTW focus can help provide support for companies and their employees before an event occurs and continues through a successful return-to-work for the employee. Look for a partner with the professional resources to effectively address key issues and coordinate all aspects of a RTW program.
  • Continuously review data — Companies that continuously review reported injuries, days away from work and days from time of injury to when injury was reported can spot trends and adopt a proactive approach to accidents and injuries on the job, therefore reducing an injured individual’s time away from work.
  • Use a nurse case manager — A nurse case manager oversees injured employees’ medical care while reducing the total cost of risk for employers. This position ensures patients receive treatment plans tailored to each individual’s specific condition and medical history. For many companies, this means avoiding extraneous medical care and associated costs. 
  • Technology — Perhaps the most important element of a streamlined RTW program is that of technology. When companies invest in technology, they can reduce workers comp and return to work program costs and make it easier to settle claims. Using technology to collect and interpret data can help predict incidents, highlight risks and inform underwriting. 

A fast return-to-work is desirable from the employer and insurer’s viewpoint, lowering claim costs for the insurer but benefiting the worker too. A streamlined RTW program can help employers better control the total impact and costs of workers being away from the job, while helping employees quickly recover both physically and financially from an illness or injury. It is critical to stay ahead of the curve and establish a RTW strategy, ensuring your business is ready to proactively address return challenges and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Foresight does just that by using technology to improve underwriting and lessen losses. By wrapping risk management technology and services into every policy, Foresight provides a path to lower incident rates and lower premiums for customers. Foresight’s easy-to-use app lets insureds submit a claim and contact a medical professional at the time of the incident. 

We simplify compliance so your clients can focus on proper medical attention and incident response.

Author: Foresight

We’re a team of compliance, safety, and commercial insurance professionals transforming workers compensation. We write about technology, trends, regulations, and value-adding services.