Disability management solutions for small businesses

small business

In the United States, 99.7 percent of employers have fewer than 500 employees.[1] Yet, I’ve found most of the tools, trainings and approaches for returning employees to work are designed for the .3 percent of employers with more than 500 employees. That seems like a pretty big disconnect to me. What’s a small employer to do?

First of all keep it simple. An Internet search on “return to work” yields a mountain of mission statements, manuals, forms, templates, etc., aimed at helping you build a robust disability management program. Don’t get overwhelmed. Much of what you need is already filed under common sense in your own head.

Start first with the care and compassion you feel for your employee and use your common sense to turn that care and compassion into a successful plan.

Show your employee you care
When you care about someone, you check to see how he or she is doing. It’s no different when that someone is an employee. You aren’t bothering the employee — you are showing genuine concern.

Help your employee
The other thing you do when you care about someone is offer help. In this case, offering help means smoothing the path for the employee’s transition back to work.

Ease your employee’s anxiety
Remember, your employee likely is anxious and concerned about his or her health and job – the whole situation. Anxiety gets in the way of thinking of the obvious, such as returning to work on a part-time basis.

Transitional return-to-work plans start part time then ease into full time within a few weeks or a month. For most employees, the only accommodation they need is a part-time transitional plan to help them build the stamina to be back in the workplace. Additionally, a part-time plan also allows the employee to attend medical appointments outside of work hours.

With this approach the benefits for you and the employee are huge. The employee reconnects to the workplace and his or her income more quickly than waiting until he or she was back to 100 percent. You get your employee back, which means more of your product gets out the door more quickly. Finally, the employee feels like a valued and needed part of your team, which is a huge factor in an employee’s engagement. Dozens of academic articles validate the positive correlation between employee engagement and employee productivity, but, again, your common sense probably already recognized that connection.

This is the first in a series of entries on small employer solutions.

[1] U.S. Small Business Administration http://web.sba.gov/faqs/faqIndexAll.cfm?areaid=24

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