Phased Return to Work / Workplace Adaptations
Case Study 1
A phased return plan involves starting work at the normal time and finishing early, slowly increasing both hours and days of work every week for 4 weeks until working normally. During a phased return, people are paid as though they were working their maximum contracted hours. This arrangement is helpful to allow people time to re-adjust to being at work, the workload involved and for workplace adaptations to be planned and improved upon. The aim is to make the process of returning safe, productive and successful. ‘Success’ occurs when the person does not require further time away due to inadequate support at work.
A member of the academic staff had been unable to work for nearly 6 months due to a medical condition that caused functional difficulties that restricted walking, sitting for long periods to undertake computer work, bending, stretching, pushing and pulling.
To support a successful return to work, the occupational health practitioner listened to and worked with the member of staff and NHS pain management specialist. The process involved:
Planning how to get to work. The member of staff was not able to drive so the journey would be made by train and a taxi used to and from the station.
A pre-work assessment identified several workplace adaptations that were made in advance of the return to work day. These included:
Altering the height and improving the leverage of door handles
Reducing the resistance to open corridor (fire) doors
Lowering and increasing the amount of office shelving that was usable at waist height
Exchanging 4 drawer filing cabinets with lower, 3 drawer filing cabinets
Modifying lecture room audio visual equipment to ensure it was within a range of convenient reach.
A review of the computer work station resulted in:
The central processing unit being moved from the floor to a desk position – enabling the machine to be accessed from a seated position without stretching or bending.
A pacing programme was downloaded that provides a pop-up reminder to take a break from continual keyboard work at pre-determined time intervals. Initially this was set for 30 minute intervals.
During the phased return to work, the member of staff purchased a ‘handi-grabber’ – this is an extendable rod that is hand operated to pick up paper or other light-weight objects that have fallen on the floor; Adjustments were made to the office window to enable the staff member to open and close it for thermal comfort. Additional adaptations were identified that included more handrails around the building.
Case Study 2
I have two health issues that affect me to differing degrees. I am deaf and use two hearing aids (although I still have about 25% of hearing left). This has meant that I need a special telephone. Co-workers need to face me when talking. The major health issue at the moment is that I'm confined to a wheelchair because of a knee injury.
I find it relatively easy to move around my building. The team here has been supportive. Even so, there are difficult times. The nature of our building means we have a lot of events happen and areas can become crowded. Our staff are good at knowing the routes I take, and have ensured that when setting up these are kept clear, but outside visitors can be a little more challenging! It also makes travelling between buildings more challenging and also limits to some degree the buildings I can actually visit without help.
I'm always cheerful and mindful of the fact that this at least is temporary. Just don't get in front of the chair when I've got some speed up!