The safety net for an employer’s productivity, morale, and employee loyalty is disability management; never mind the cost savings that come with an effective program. When bad things happen, it is important to focus on what the injured party CAN do versus what they can no longer do. To be clear, I am writing about temporary functional impairment only here; I will fill you in on permanent disabilities and their impact another time.
So, take my circumstance, self inflicted injury unfortunately; a cycling accident that has rendered me less functional than usual for the next 6-8 weeks. In the first few days due to acute pain, I tired easily and needed regular analgesics every 4-6 hours. I needed assistance with some basic activities of daily living but 96 hours post incident I was feeling a bit more human.
In that first week, I had the benefit of a rockstar spouse who drove me to and from work sites as driving would have been very challenging. I could tolerate some hours and I could accomplish some things in the day provided I worked within my capacity. Sure, I had limitations and restrictions but there was still a lot I could do. When there is a will, there is a way.
Thankfully, I had employers who were happy to have me there in my less than optimal state. And yes, I have a job that is generally office based but the principles are the same. As employers and colleagues, there are a number of questions to ask. Can you make room for the recovering worker to be at work, contributing in a modified way within some reduced hours? Can you support the worker’s desire to be part of the organization but in a temporarily altered state? Can you be creative in how you help the worker get to and fro, are there tools they need to help them function better in their “for now” state, and can you tolerate reduced productivity versus losing the worker entirely for the duration of healing? This is one aspect of disability management that not only is nice to do but makes good business sense. It reinforces to the worker that you value them but it also saves the company money. Having the worker there, even in a reduced capacity, saves full replacement or training costs. You retain the skill and knowledge of your worker and maintain the occupational bond, which has been shown to have a positive therapeutic effect on recovery resulting in earlier full duty return to work.
Regardless of how you do it, it will take time and planning but it is worth it. Keeping your employee connected is good for both of you!