An injury at work can have far-reaching consequences. Besides the obvious potential loss of income and the pain of an injury, there are other factors to consider. One of the biggest is how to handle returning to work.
Given the access to quality medical care and the choice of physicians, injured workers in Wisconsin return to work faster than virtually every state in the country.
Some workers, however, may return faster than they should. Too often, Wisconsin employees rush back to the job because they feel pressured by either their company or their own financial needs. This can create several issues. An employee who rushes back to work can re-injure themselves, and miss even more time. Sometimes work-performance suffers because someone has not fully recovered from their initial injury.
It's critical you return to work only when ready and when your doctor says you should. If you were injured at work and are worried about returning, here are a few things you can do to ease the transition:
Talk to your employer
Don’t be afraid to talk to your employer about possible issues that may arise from returning to work. If you’ve been out for a long period of time, discuss a schedule or position, based on your temporary or permanent limitations, that would let you ease into work. Perhaps working reduced hours would be the best way to return to work. Candidly discuss the options that are available and what might be best for you.
Document any restrictions from your doctor
No matter what, rely on what your doctor says you can and cannot do physically. Talk to your doctors and their staff to make sure you are on the same page regarding any working restrictions. Talk to your medical providers about the type of work you do (provide job descriptions if necessary). Ask if the providers feel you are ready to return to your old job—or a lighter duty job.
Keep all documentation from your doctors. Under no circumstances push outside the boundaries the doctors set. Make sure your employer understands the extent of all work restrictions before you go back to work.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
After an injury, it can be tempting to work extra hard when you get back to work. It’s important that you listen to your body and treat your first couple months back carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extra break if needed, and don’t over-exert yourself. Of course, all of this assumes your employer is willing to accommodate your needs. Oftentimes this is difficult, but we encourage open communication with your employer. You want to keep working and getting better—tell your employer that.
These are just a few of the things you can do to make a return to work a little easier after an extensive injury leave. Remember to pay attention to your body and take care not to overdo it.
If you feel like you’ve been rushed back after a work injury, or have questions about Wisconsin’s workers’ comp process, speak to an attorney experienced in workers' compensation to better understand your options.
More importantly, if your employer says they cannot take you back to work with permanent limitations, you need to consult with an attorney right away.