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Tips for Communicating with an Injured or Ill Employee

Nov 27, 2017 08:37AM ● By Digital Media Director

 

By: Tonia Swan

 Are you confident that you know how to best communicate during the unplanned event of an employee’s injury or illness?

Here are some tips based on what has worked best for thousands of employers. They will help you get the process on the right track early and keep it there – which will help your employee recover quickly, get your workplace back to normal, and keep your costs down.

  1. Immediately and visibly take charge.

Time is of the essence! As soon as you hear of an injury or illness, make a quick assessment followed by taking prompt action to respond. Those who wonder if you will stand by them when they’re hurt will be reassured. Those who might be tempted to “abuse the system” may lose their nerve when you make it clear you are going to be engaged.

2. Demonstrate concern for the employee’s well-being.

The employee may appreciate your help seeking medical care. Also, offer to contact family or friends of the employee should they want additional support. Be certain someone from your management team is designated to follow-up with the employee during their absence from work and upon their return.

3. Realize you are setting the tone. 

The way you physically and verbally respond to the employee may persuade their reaction to the situation. It may strengthen their loyalty, making them eager to return, or make them uncomfortable causing them to stall as long as possible. In some cases, it may prompt them to contact a lawyer. Your personal feelings about this employee or the event are irrelevant. Stick to the facts, follow company policy, and maintain close communication with your carrier.

4. Practice the golden rule from the start.

Respond to the employee the same way you would want someone to respond to you – kind and helpful. Convey empathy and concern on behalf of your company. Ask if they have any questions, concerns, or requests. If so, how can you, as a supportive employer, assist? 

5. Show your loyalty to strengthen theirs.

Why not rally around this person the same way you do when co-workers have a car accident, surgery, or trauma in the family? Consider sending a card. Have someone offer assistance with tasks the employee may not be able to do, such as yard work, snow removal, or a ride to work. The generosity of the business may generate a sense of desire to repay you – by coming back to work.

6. Try for a “win-win.”

People recover faster if they stay active. Sitting home can cause an employee to question their abilities and lose confidence in their performance. Keeping people at work is beneficial for both your employee and your business, helping to reduce disruption to routines and expenses.

7. Maintain routine and discipline.

Remind the employee that all business policies and procedures continue to apply. Communicate to them that it is their responsibility to follow all doctor recommendations, and if they need assistance to ask. Request the employee to provide a copy of all doctors notes within 24 hours of the appointment. Sometimes employees with performance or behavior problems file claims. Be certain to keep these issues separate.

8. Communicate a focus on future safety.

Once injured, many employees worry about their own safety and that of others. Thoroughly investigate the circumstances that allowed the event to happen, and communicate steps for correction and prevention.

9. Show your loyalty to strengthen theirs.

Why not rally around this person the same way you do when co-workers have a car accident, surgery, or trauma in the family? Consider sending a card. Have someone offer assistance with tasks the employee may not be able to do, such as yard work, snow removal, or a ride to work. The generosity of the business may generate a sense of desire to repay you – by coming back to work.

Tonia Swan, COTA/L,  is an occupational therapy assistant and a member of the South Dakota Occupational Therapy Association. She is a Stay at Work/Return to Work Coordinator with RAS.

MOW: Go online to read all 9 tips!