Gradual Return to Work Plan to Ensure an Easy Transition


A return to work plan must be designed to help you transit back to the office or to your work. In any organization, illness and injuries to employees are common occurrences that can never be avoided. In reality, both come at a cost to the employees and employer. 

The employee will bear the physical and emotional trauma while the employer will be responsible for the cost of medication, lost productivity, and the reimbursement of the workers. However, the onus is on both parties to be prepared in case they happen. 

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, about 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries occurred in 2014 based on a survey done by CatalystRTW in April 2017. This translated to an equivalent of 3.2 cases for every 100 full-time employees.

Also, in the report, it was stated that about 30% of employees injured on their job would lose days from work. However, it was reported in the study that 80-90% of injured employees would prefer a return back to their work rather than settle for disability.

Your return to work plan as a worker must be designed to help you transit back to the office plan with ease because you have been away for some reasons such as medical-related issues or accidents. 

Hence the return to the work plan of employees must be well communicated and documented to ensure their safety. Being away from the workplace due to sickness or any other reason as an employee, your return to work does not necessarily mean that you have fully recovered and that you can stop your treatment. 

However, it is to aid your transition back to your job duties while continuing your treatment plan. 

In this article, we will discuss how you can return to your work plan effectively without undermining your productivity.

Reboarding Sportlight

30% of employees injured on their job would lose days from work.

—Based on a survey done by CatalystRTW in April 2017.

Reboarding Sportlight

30% of employees injured on their job would lose days from work.

—Based on a survey done by CatalystRTW in April 2017.

Getting back to work plan: What you need to do

Without mincing words, your work plays an integral role in your recovery coupled with the psychological support from your therapist, friends, family, and colleagues.

In reality, your return can be overwhelming because you have been away for some considerable period, hence you must engage your healthcare provider and discuss your plan to return to the office and your concern about returning to work. 

Getting back to work plan entails you discussing your motivation, avail your healthcare provider of what you can do to prepare yourself ahead of your return, and what you will need to aid your transition back into the workplace.

Again, the task of getting back to the office plan entails you having a clear understanding of the following:

  • The number of hours you will be spending in the workplace 
  • The work tasks you will be responsible for when you return.
  • Again one of the return to work arrangements is knowing who to communicate with.
  • Have a discussion with your employer on the working conditions that could truncate your healing process to address them before your return.

The use of Pre & Onboarding platforms can aid you in managing these aspects and will ensure effective communication between you and who you report to in your workplace.


Return to office plan: how to attain its mastery

Your return to office plan after being away must be preceded by some ideal strategies to manage the stressful conditions proactively to aid your productivity on your return to the office.  The strategies are discussed in the steps below:

Step 1: Discuss with your employer 

You must talk to your employer about the useful training you might need to enhance your effectiveness upon your return to the office. Your manager plays a vital role in your return to work. You must maintain an open and honest approach in your discussion with him. 

Step 2: Seek the required assistance

In the discussion with your manager, you can solicit help that can be rendered to you such as workplace accommodation.  Also, discuss other issues that could enhance your efficiency. While discussing with your manager, leverage the opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to the organization and reinforce your skills and abilities to him. 

Step 3: Take an inventory of the right support system

Again, you need to develop support resources by taking an inventory of your existing support system. This will include your employee assistance program, your representative at work, family, friends, and community. 

Step 4: Inform your company about your plan to return to work 

Inform them about your plan to return to the office and let them know how they will be of assistance to you. Also, another factor that can ease your return to office plan is getting regular daily exercise and maintaining a healthy diet to aid your recovery process. Establishing a healthy sleeping routine is also a vital return to the work action plan.


Phased return to work plan example

In a phased return to work plan, as an employee, you have the arrangement to return to your work after a long period of absence. For instance, the recent Covid-19 pandemic forced many employees to work from home for some period.

Hence, most employees embraced a phased return to work plan before the resumption of full-time operations in their respective companies. This plan offers you a valuable period of readjustment, enabling you to be back into your job duties and routine.

Your return to the full role at work is gradual over a specified period often for a week or two and not exceeding four weeks duration.

Below is a phased return to work plan example:

Gradual Return to Work Plan

In this arrangement, for the period, your payment would be 75 work hours + 65 hours at half pay; meaning a total payment of 107.5 hours paid out of 140 hours. This means a total of 32.5 hours will not be paid. 


Planning and implementing an RTW plan

An RTW plan depicts the return to work plan and is a written document created collaboratively by the injured or ill employee, manager, healthcare professional, and the union representative of the workplace.  

An RTW plan is a tool for employers to help injured workers return safely to work as early as possible. It states what needs to happen and when it will happen to assist the injured worker return to work.

In an RTW plan are the following;

    • The RTW goal: its goal is to return the worker to a suitable job role. It details the suitable duties plan that is safe, productive, and in tandem with the functional abilities of the employee. Also, it aims to restore the worker’s pre-injury earnings.
    • The actions and activities required to achieve the RTW goal: the plan should pinpoint your responsibilities as an employee, the roles of the manager, treating healthcare professional, and union representative, and colleagues that will be assisting the worker.
    • Timeframes for achieving these goals: these aim to measure your progress. RTW plan needs to have a beginning and an end. It should state the graduated return to work plan like the provision of accommodation to ensure a smooth return to the pre-injury era. Also, a safe return to work program checklist must be included in it like 5 work hours per day by the third week.
    • Healthcare needs: this is important in case the employee is still having medical appointments during work hours to ensure that the visits are coordinated with the requirements of the proposed return to work plan.

The companies return to work plans should include relevant information gathering, determination of the return to work goal, documentation of the plan, implementation of the plan, monitoring the plan, and reviewing the plan. 


Gradual return to work plan: getting to know the measures to put in place

A gradual return to work plan must be designed to entertain the feedback of every party involved such as the employee, employer, and healthcare provider. Also, a gradual return to work plan must be flexible to enhance the full recovery and productivity of the worker. 

Office return to work: In creating an office return to work plan, the healthcare provider has a crucial role to play in the development of the return to work communication plan to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The return to work roadmap must be painstakingly stated in it such as defining the employee’s restrictions and limitations over time. The gradual return work examples are working fewer hours a day and working fewer days per week by the employee.

Also, a plan for monitoring the return to work process including a full work schedule after the resumption must be stated. 


Possible causes 


A long period of illness: For instance, the sample return to work plan for an employee that survived cancer would be the provision of accommodation in the workplace to help the worker in managing the transition back to the workplace and optimize productivity in the process. 

No doubt, stress, and burnout are common challenges of any workplace and workers do take time off to manage these challenges. Ahead of your return to work after stress leave, you should visit a doctor to assess your mental fitness.  

Stress and illnesses are not limited to the workers, employers are not left out, employers can visit the medical personnel and occupational health officers to ascertain their level of recovery from illness and stress to confirm if they are ready to return to management roles in their organizations.

According to the report by WorkSafe in 2020, it stated that as an injured worker, your recovery could be enhanced by returning to your job by modifying your tasks rather than staying put at home during the recovery process. 

After a six-month absence from your workplace, you have a 50% chance of returning to your job and a 20% chance of returning after a year. Hence the longer you stay at home, the lower your chances of returning to your job. 

No doubt, with an effective return to work plan, you are assured of a full recovery while you are still contributing to the growth of your company.

Activate your gradual return to work plan.


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