by Angela Sams
Many of us have had days where we wish we could skip work or take an extended vacation. But taking too much time off of work may not be to our benefit, as a recent article in Workers’ Compensation Magazine (a publication of the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance) discusses. Is it possible that going to work every day could actually be good for us, both mentally and physically?
A lot of the benefits that come from having a steady job are due to satisfaction in life. Humans are social by nature, and desire to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Work is also good at keeping us busy, and this is especially beneficial for those who have a disability or other health problem that may cause them pain. Work provides a helpful distraction, while also giving them purpose in life. As the article states, “[work] often helps us to establish who we are, our identities, and our status.” Most people spend forty hours a week doing their jobs, so it only makes sense that our work makes up a large part of who we are as a person.
Injuries happen all the time, and it is definitely necessary to take time to recover. However, too much time spent on recovery can actually hinder employees. Indeed, “scientific studies have shown that not working exposes us to an increased risk of additional illness and death.” Often, not enough is done to encourage employees to get back to work. For example, employers, doctors, and claims professionals may not be aware of the health risks of not returning to work, and therefore may not do everything in their power to help disabled employees get back on the job again. Sometimes the injured individual is reluctant to return to work because they’re afraid of re-injury or want to avoid conflicts with co-workers and superiors. But, as time goes by and they lose touch with their workplace, they end up doing themselves a disservice in the long run.
It is helpful to use three criteria—risk, capacity, and tolerance—to assess a worker’s capability to return to work. Risk is the potential danger to the individual or his or her co-workers if the injured worker does their work while dealing with a medical condition. Capacity involves what an injured worker is capable of doing at the moment, making sure that they are not over-limiting or overestimating their abilities to work while they have a medical condition. Finally, tolerance encompasses an injured worker’s ability to deal with any symptoms that may be affecting them due to a medical condition.
So how do employers help meet disabled employees in the middle so that everyone can benefit? A step was made in this direction when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Furthermore, employers must learn to be supportive by valuing their employees, establishing good work relationships, and staying in touch with the individual’s healthcare providers to keep open communication at the forefront. Putting someone on disability leave does not just impact a company or the injured individual. It can have a detrimental affect on society, and it is something that should not be taken lightly.