It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of effective communication with an injured worker in order to support them through their injury, and provide a safe and easy return to work.
Our 5-tip strategy covers the why, when and what of good communication, the management of resource support material, and the value of follow-through. Together, these underpin the best possible outcomes for all involved.
Tip 1. The why of communication
If a relative or a friend is injured, we contact them to find out how they are, to let them know we care, and to obtain information from them so that we may help. It’s the right thing to do. In the case of the workplace, it’s also the right thing to do, for the injured worker, and for the company.
Good communication is genuine, and a worker can be particularly sensitive to what they may deem to be company self-interest. Open and flowing communication channels establish trust, keep all parties informed, and prevent misunderstanding. Research has established direct links between poor communication and negative worker compensation outcomes, such as longer return-to-work timeframes and increased litigation.
Tip 2. Communication timeframe
If illness or misfortune strikes us, relatives and friends quickly make contact to say how sorry they are, and it can be difficult not to resent those who are slower to call, or even worse, never get round to doing so. Again, the same applies in a workplace situation.
WorkSafe Victoria references research showing that communicating with an injured worker in the first three days after an injury significantly enhances their return-to-work outcomes from 26% for physical injuries, all the way to 63% for psychological injuries.
Ideally, the worker’s manager should make contact on the first day. If appropriate, they might decide to follow-up with messages from the team. It’s particularly important, after the initial flurry of activity, to stay in contact, in line with the check-in schedule the injured worker nominates. More about that below.
Tip 3. Communication content
If you are the person responsible for communicating with the injured worker, here are some suggestions on how to optimise that first contact:
- Be human. Express regret for their situation, ask how they are, whether they need anything. There may be someone they would like contacted, or personal items they would like retrieved from the workplace.
- Reassure them, if you can, that their job is safe, and that everyone is looking forward to their return.
- Don’t leave the burden of bringing up workers compensation on the injured worker. Broach it yourself, ask whether they have any immediate questions, and provide them with avenues for posing those that later spring to mind.
- Establish how frequently the worker would like to schedule a ‘check-in’.
The Solv platform makes it easy for our clients to document communication preferences and frequencies. It also allows them to add alerts and reminders for communications, or for actions such as obtaining medical certificates, or updating return-to-work plans. Solv can also be set up to send automatic reminders directly to the injured worker.
Depending on the worker’s path of recovery, later communication could centre on:
- The degree to which they would like to be kept updated on workplace news.
- Adjustments and timeframes that would facilitate their return to work.
- The support they would need to improve their return-to-work experience.
Good communication generates information that requires rigorous management. Our Solv platform provides our clients with the facility to promptly log communication details to prevent content going astray. It also allows them to send emails directly from within the Solv system, or directly to it, to ensure all communication is stored in the one place for easy reference. Solv also provides our clients with the ability to send SMS messages from within the system, and stores records of these in the case files.
Tip 4: Keeping track of resource support material
Resource support material for workers compensation can be extensive. Processes, policies, and requirements also vary between states and industries, adding an extra layer of complexity. The timely forwarding of relevant resources and information to an injured worker is vital to the process, as is the ongoing management and tracking.
The storing of support documentation in the Solv system makes for quick access to the latest versions, and prompt dispatch to the worker. Solv also monitors information sent, and when, and provides for calendar reminders.
Tip 5: Follow through
Just as the most well-meaning of relatives and friends can eventually forget to check up on you if you are laid low for a longer stretch, so too can the most well-intentioned manager.
Once the initial rush of communication subsides, it’s particularly important to maintain meaningful contact with the injured worker, in line with the agreed check-in schedule.
Ask them how they are faring, how their medical care is progressing, and whether they are satisfied with those providing that care. Find out which activities they are able to do, and which still pose a challenge.
Continue to express sincere interest with open questions. It’s beneficial for the worker to be able to share information on their recovery, and it’s important for the company to be up-to-date with the status of that recovery to optimise return-to-work plans.