20 simple and safe ways to modify duties that double RTW

20 simple and safe ways to modify duties that double RTW

by | Return to Work

One of the common problem I encounter in my practice are employees wanting to gradually get back to work but can’t because there are no modified duties at work for them to perform.

Although they hadn’t recovered fully I had advised them to return to work just for them to be told by their employer that there are no other (modified) jobs for them to do.

What happens then!

Employees stay longer at home. Their chances of recovering slowed. You lose out to sickness absence.

It can be a win –win for everyone.

With modified duties, you get to retain your experienced worker, you maintain your reputation as a supportive employer, and you reduce costs associated with claims, additional hiring and training.

Your employee’s morale boosted, working relations improved as you are showing injury doesn’t threaten job security, their independence increased and they get to stay in work.

[Tweet “Efficient way to reduce sickness absence –  a library of job tasks set aside as modified duties”]

 

 

Let’s look at the facts:

A whitepaper by Department of Health (2004) stated that the longer someone stayed out of work the less likely they were to return to work.

A Joint Study by Intracorp, The Washington business group and the Journal of Workers compensation reported that;

> 6 months off sick

%

chance of being off work for 5 years

within 4 weeks off sick

%

chance to return to work

after 52 weeks off sick

%

chance of returning to work

 

 

WHAT ARE MODIFIED DUTIES

Also known as light duties, they are temporary changes to regular job duties or a different work activity an employee can perform within their ability. Bear in mind that they need to be

  1. safe,
  2. productive for the employee
  3. achievable within the employee’s injury limit
  4. focussed on duties that can be done by your employee and not on the type of injury.

So, I have complied ways you can implement duties that could help an injured employee back to work quicker.

 

  1. CHANGING WORKING HOURS

Perhaps your employee could work an afternoon shift instead of an early morning shift. For example, travelling during off-peak periods might reduce their pain whilst commuting. Another scenario might be if their pain varies throughout the day. They could feel better to work during the day than night when the pain is at its peak.

2.  REDUCING WORKING HOURS

Sometimes an employee could still perform their duties but not just a dull shift. For example, working 4 -5 hours every day instead of an 8-hour shift.

 

3.  REDUCING WORK RATE

Slowing down the work rate, for example, for an employee working in a factory would reduces early onset of fatigue allowing them to continue with their work within their ability.

 

4.  CHANGING WORK TASKS

If they are unable to carry out their regular duties or some of it, you could remove some tasks or swap with another employee.

5.  JOB ROTATION

In cases of high repetitive tasks, you could give them various tasks that use different muscle groups e.g. typing, archiving, scanning documents, mail sorting.

 

6.  JOB ENLARGEMENT

They do other kind of jobs aside from their regular tasks. Instead of rotation the same task repeatedly, they are assigned various tasks that would allow them move about more or use less of their injured area.

 

7.  RESTRICTED DUTIES

They are restricted from certain tasks, for example, someone with shoulder pain restricted from lifting items onto high shelves. So they can still carry out their normal duties except those that they are exempt from doing.

 

8.  CHANGING WORK TASKS

Assigning jobs to them that are totally different from their regular jobs.

 

9.  INCREASING BREAK TIME

Instead of the 3 – 4 breaks a shift, you could increase it to 6 – 8 breaks. These should be usually short breaks but just spread out throughout their shift, allowing them to rest and recover.

 

10.  ALTERING TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT

For example changing form a regular office mouse to a graphic tablet, keyboard to a voice recognition software or using a trolley instead of just carry small items.

 

11.  ALTERING WORKSTATIONS AND WORK SURFACES

Changing from a standing workstation to a sitting one, for example, or tilting the workstation to reduce strain, or even lining up the surface with a lighter colour to improve visibility.

 

12.  CHANGING BUILDINGS OR LOCATION 

Yes! had a patient once who couldn’t resume work because he was unable to walk from his car to his office until he was given crutches. He only needed the crutches to get to work. That added an extra 5 days to his absence as we had to order the crutches.

In cases of employee unable to use the stairs or the long distance walking from the car to the building, they could temporarily be assigned to a different building or the ground floor office.

 

13.  ONE-OFF PROJECTS

I remember when I was working agency jobs many years ago and I was sent to this accounting company to do some archiving of files (no cloud computing then!) or another I did data entry or another, filing when they had a company-wide recruitment.Those jobs could be put aside in your library of modified duties. It might be a drag but someone still has to do it!

Other jobs could be assigning them a role organising an annual company event e.g. end of year party or a community building event.

I could go on with all the mundane jobs back in the days! Hmm, reminiscing now!

You know those jobs that occasionally arise a couple of times in the year or those jobs you call in an agency worker to do.

 

14.  ALTERING WORK ENVIRONMENT

Are their pain exacerbated by the cold or noisy area? You could assign them to indoor task or move their workstation to a quieter area of the office (didn’t mean the store room!).

 

15.  REDUCING WORK LOAD/ RESPONSIBILITY

For example, reducing the weight and frequency of the load they carry or assigning them to attend to a reduced number of customers or team member.

 

16.  ALTERNATING BETWEEN REGULAR AND MODIFIED DUTIES

This is best at the end of the phased return to work period, where you want to gradually introduce them back to their regular duties. For example, they perform their warehouse tasks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesday and Friday, sitting administrative tasks.

 

17.  SECONDMENT

Assigning them to work for a different team entirely, a different office or even a local community project e.g. a charity project you support in your community.

18.  JOB SHARE

Pairing them with someone else to complete a job. This could be with the same person and task throughout the transition period or changing different tasks frequently for the transition period.

 

19.  PHASED DUTIES

For example, for a week or two they perform x number of duties and the following week (x +y) number of duties and the following week (x+y+z) number of duties until they are back to their regular duties of (x+y+z+z1+z2)2.

See what I did there! Sorry couldn’t help myself!

Set goals that would involve gradually increasing duties or hours back to their regular duties. Not sure why setting goals are important check out previous post: How to quickly return your absent employee back to work.

 

20.  FLEXIBLE WORKING  

It’s incredible how this type of working which was almost impossible in the past, is gaining popularity. With the help of technology – cloud computing, web conferencing, screen sharing and virtual office etc., your employee can work from home or a place conducive for them. So they are still recovering but can put in a couple of working hours from home, even attend meetings virtually. It doesn’t cost so much this days to implement!

I hope this helps to get you started. Remember, whatever they do these duties are temporary, so a return to work programme should also be in place to maintain goals until they return to their regular duties.

 

SHARE WITH US

What do you do to help your employees return gradually back to work? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment below.

By Ugo Akpala-Alimi

Ugo is a Workplace Musculoskeletal Health Expert. She is a Chartered Physiotherapist with a masters degree in Ergonomics. 15+ years' experience. Treated 9,000+ patients. Conducted work assessments++. Worked with companies including BP, UKPN. On a mission to help managers reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders and create 'ouchless' workplaces. Hasn't yet gotten the magic elixir for injury-resistant workers (still busy concocting).

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