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Implementing an Effective Return to Work Program

What measures do you have in place to support employees while returning to work? Creating a positive and open program will benefit the business, the employee, and their teams. An effective return to work program will also help the employee maintain productivity while reaccumulating, protecting their earning power, and boosting productivity.

Return to Work Program Structure

Replacing a team member can cost anywhere from half to twice that employee’s salary, so it is worth doing what you can to keep them. Consider these critical elements of a successful return to work program as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Leadership Support

Explain the key benefits of the program to leadership. It is important to know what your existing absences stem from and the average length of absence. Present this baseline data and make the case for your return to work program. Establishing the mainline of support from the senior leadership team is essential to the program’s success.

Written Policy and Process

There are many considerations throughout the development process, such as administration, how employees learn and engage with HR, and what company modifications are needed. You may want to consider implementing a legal counsel to assure you’re compliant with current company policies and municipal, state, and federal laws.

Culture Check

Create clear messaging about what this program means to employees, how they can attain further information when needed, steps for engaging with a program specialist, and other key advantages. Then, spread this information through e-newsletters, brochures, posters, and meetings.


Educate managers on why the program is so important to support, how it impacts the organization and what it means for both them and the returning employee. This training should be implemented into your onboarding process so that all new employees are well aware from the start. Proper program messaging and clear policies and procedures will help assure that everyone is one the same page.

Appoint a Coordinator

The program coordinator role will depend upon the size of your organization. It’s essentially establishing someone as the daily owner of work and could be a benefits coordinator or someone from your HR team. This individual must work with various department managers to define program roles, track compliance, and measure success.

Create Job Descriptions

Having functional detailed job descriptions is a crucial component for all employees which include physical requirements and essential duties. Oftentimes, a return to work program consists of specific requirements for the employee. These are all compliance issues that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will enforce.

Modified Tasks

There is almost always a way to modify an employee’s duties. What back-burner projects have department leads not been able to get to? There are normally a handful of tasks that can be delegated out. Often, it’s a combination of that employee’s existing duties and some of these special projects which makes a great list of modified responsibilities.

Continue Reading: Fun Ways to Bring Employee Wellness to a Workplace

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