Returning to Work?

When an individual has been off work on long-term sick, thoughts about how and when to start preparing for a return to work can be rather daunting for both the individual and their manager.  Success of returning to work after illness or injury frequently depends on there being a full understanding of the nature of the condition and the support that will help; it is much more than a simple increase of hours at work. 

Occupational Psychologists at Ways to Work have many years experience of developing such plans.  We have seen many of the barriers that can be presented and we have developed ways around those barriers on numerous occasions.  We appreciate there will be concerns about the success of a return to work plan from both the individual and the manager’s point of view and so we always start the process by assessing the concerns of everyone involved and then using the plan to integrate further assessments and new ways of working in order to address those concerns.  

A report is prepared outlining thoughts and guidance for the individual and manager to action independently.

How We Do It

Through assessments and coaching interventions, we help people to determine what they need to help them return to work successfully.

Return to Work Plans may be developed purely with the individual, or we can also liaise with other professionals involved in their care to ensure the plan is realistic from everyone’s point of view.  This could involve join meetings with medical professionals, case managers, HR departments, line managers and employers.

In some cases, the return to work planning will also incorporate home based, work preparation activities, through which we may link with Occupational Therapists and Support Workers for additional support.

When developing Return to Work Plans, we consider fatigue issues and graduated hours of work.  We also believe it is essential to evaluate skills and abilities so we can determine the suitability of tasks that the individual will be required to undertake.

With both fatigue levels and abilities levels in mind, we negotiate tasks that suit the individual’s abilities and strengths  to encourage a positive experience of returning to work.  We then carefully manage a steady increase of hours at work, alongside the development of more challenging activities.  Careful monitoring and evaluation is incorporated throughout each stage of the return to work process.

By adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to the development of Return to Work Plans, we can also encourage a pro-active use of Fit Notes, so that individuals have a plan to prepare for work and not just a return to work date.