- How employers handle the return of employees with medical issues or disabilities after coming off leave can negatively affect employee experience, lower productivity and extend out-of-office time, according to Standard Insurance Company's Employee Disability Leave study.
- The Standard said that employers can improve employees' return-to-work experience through workplace resource programs, with services provided by employee assistance programs (EAPs) and wellness, disability insurance and disease management programs. Study results showed that 97% of employees who were able to stay on the job participated in a workplace resource program, but 47% of employees with a chronic medical condition weren't referred to any workplace resource program.
- Sixty percent of employees who sought their direct supervisor's assistance when combating a health condition at work were fearful of losing their job when reaching out. But those who worked with an HR manager were able to return to work 44% faster than those who sought their supervisor's help.
Organizations can ensure that an employee's return to work is a positive experience for all. As the study highlighted, employers can reduce stress for workers and supervisors by providing employees with appropriate workplace resources so that they can make a timely recovery and transition back to work with ease. PwC introduced a phased return-to-work program in April that eases new parents' return to work after parental leave. Employees work 60% of their normal schedule at full pay for a month after returning to work, the company said.
Other companies have taken a different approach to post-leave transitions. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology examined workers and workplaces practicing "keep-in-touch" programs, finding that leave-takers who signed up for such initiatives stayed up-to-date with assignments, clients and fellow employers by communicating with a coworker during leave. Women who participated in "keep-in-touch" programs during year-long maternity leaves were perceived as hireable by managers, the study found.
HR managers shone in The Standard study; they connected with employees in a positive way that helped them make a speedier transition back to work. HR can work with managers and supervisors to help them bring about similar results when helping employees process leave and other workplace situations. David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute's ADA & Equal Employment Opportunity Services, has advised HR to train managers that even the most complex problems can start out legally sound if they say five simple words: "How can I help you?"