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May 15, 2013

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SHE2013: Early intervention crucial in getting employees back to work

Whether employees are off work owing to physical or cognitive issues is immaterial in the critical need for early intervention to aid early return to work, Ryan Allen, senior physiotherapist and regional manager at Physio World, told a large audience in the Health & Wellbeing Theatre.

He explained that there are three components needed to get employees back to their jobs as soon as possible:

  1. Recognising the need for early intervention, for which both employer and employee have a responsibility;
  2. Timely and effective treatment and rehabilitation; and
  3. A structured and phased return to work.

According to Ryan, line managers must be trained to recognise key markers of potential ill-health, such as a change in behaviour, being more irritable than usual, or lacking their usual self-confidence.

Intervention must be early, he said, so that organisations can implement the appropriate therapy as soon as possible. If a physical injury is picked up say, six months down the line, a person may catastrophise their injury, believing it is worse than it actually is, and may also develop secondary or tertiary problems. Referral for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works in exactly the same way and can be managed very similarly, he said.

If investment in therapy is made early, the employee will feel more valued, they will return to work earlier, and costs to the employer will be reduced. To expedite this process, good, clear communication between the employee, the manager and the therapist, is crucial. “The longer a person is off work, the more challenging it is to get them back,” warned Ryan.

If a person has a musculo-skeletal injury, factors such as their workstation, posture, manual handling and physical capabilities need to be looked at. From a psychological point of view, factors such as possible stress, depression and anxiety, chronic pain or disease, bullying or personal grief at home should be examined, to elicit where support may be needed to help them back to work.

Investing in recognising issues, training managers and in the referral process, as well as regular top-up therapy, is very cost-effective to the employer. Ryan gave some examples of how much can be saved by offering physiotherapy or CBT to employees if they need it. The average cost of a physio session is £40, and that of a CBT session £100, both much less than the average cost of one day off work of £150 to £350 a day. The cost of four to six therapy sessions can save an organisation around 45% over the cost of an employee’s absence from work.

“It is essential that we get these guys and we get them early,” he stressed again.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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