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Motivation is valuable in rehabilitation and return to work

At a glance:
  • Motivation is important in return to work success
  • If an employer listens to their employees and shares planning decisions with them it helps motivate injured workers to recover and return to work
  • Approaching recovery and return to work as a team effort that include the employee, the employer, the treating health professional and the insurer increases employees' motivation
  • Early communication and empathy increase employees' motivation
  • Understanding impairment to function from the injured person's point of view takes time, but the positive results are worthwhile.
This study was conducted in Sweden, where legislation and rehabilitation
The process of helping a person back to their former abilities and quality of life (or as close as possible) after injury or a medical condition.
 practices are unique. However, its findings are universal.

Recovery and return to work following an injury is most successful if both the employee and employer work together with health professionals and the insurer. Being able to maintain good communication with your employer and working with them to plan your return to work will motivate both of you and help you recover more quickly.

Being involved in return to work arrangements helps your recovery, probably as much as keeping physically active.

Your supervisor should take the initiative and contact you, but they may note trained, or your workplace may not have a policy for assisting your return to work. If your employer does not take the lead in communication and involve you in return to work planning you should try to contact them and get them involved as soon as possible rather than waiting.

Print this article and give it to your employer as a starting place for discussion.
Understanding a person's view of their impairment takes time and effort, but it will be rewarded with greater motivation to return to work from your worker.

This study shows that motivation is important for employers as well as workers. If an employer is motivated, it encourages the employee to be motivated also. This in turn makes it more likely that an injured worker will return to work successfully.

The essential elements that assist motivation are personal contact, joint planning and the setting of realistic goals. However, to assure success the mutual trust, openness and shared decision making required for return to work planning must also be a part of the general workplace culture.

Another finding of the study was that employer contact with insurers and health professionals is also important.
When an employer takes initiative and responsibility for encouraging and motivating a worker regarding return to work, the chances of success increase.
This study shows that motivation is essential for successful return to work. If an employer is motivated it encourages an employee to be motivated.

Employer's motivation and satisfaction is enhanced by personal contact with health care professionals involved in rehabilitation of their workers after injury. Simple phone calls and short notes from health professionals can help motivate and involve both employers and patients, which in turn increases success in clinical treatment.
This study also suggests that involving the employee, employer and treating professional jointly in planning and setting realistic return to work goals aids patient recovery and return to work.
This study focused on the motivation of employers and how it in turn influences the motivation of injured workers regarding return to work.

It showed that an important part of the motivation of employers and return to work coordinators is their personal contact with other each other and other parts of the rehabilitation system, including insurers and health professionals. Insurers can play an important role in motivating employers by being in contact with them. And by encouraging personal contact between employer, employee and health professionals, including the joint setting of realistic return to work goals.
Simply by maintaining a personal relationship with the employer an insurer can contribute significantly to their motivation and confidence, this in turn fosters success in the employee's return to work.
Original Article, Authors & Publication Details:
G. Gard1 and A. Larsson1 (2003).

Focus on motivation in the work rehabilitation planning process: A qualitative
A way of assessing a situation without using direct measurement. The outcome is described as a summary in words rather than in numbers. This is in contrast to quantitative assessment, where the result is expressed as a number. A summary of a group of peoples’ beliefs about motivation is qualitative and expressed in words rather than numbers. Average days off work is a quantitative measure as it is expressed as a number of days.
 study from the employer's perspective.
Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation; 13(3): 159-167

1 Department of Health Science, Lulea University of Technology, Hedenbrovagen, Boden, Sweden.
Background, Study Objectives, How It Was Done:
The authors of this study began by reviewing the role of motivation in recovery from injury. Motivation is important in rehabilitation. People are more likely to be motivated if they have some choice in their options for treatment.

Motivation is generally influenced by:

  • Individual factors, such as the employee's interests, attitudes, expectations, needs, and self-confidence.
  • Work-related factors, such as how the workplace is structured, if goals are provided, work content, social support, and types of reward given.

Elements of rehabilitation, such as the degree of patient participation, the amount of information the patient is given about the types of treatment available, and communication between health professionals, the employer and the patient.

The aim of this study was to ask employers what they thought helped motivate staff to return to work. This study was conducted in Sweden, where the employer has a legal responsibility to be actively involved in managing their employees' return to work after injury.

Executives of ten companies were selected to be interviewed from a group of 26 who had sent their employees to a rehabilitation centre after workplace injury. The people interviewed in the study were all responsible for work safety and rehabilitation planning in their company. A range of companies of different sizes were represented, including administrative, service, and industrial workplaces.

The participants were asked about the goals, content and effectiveness of their company's rehabilitation process. The aim of the interviews was to determine ways to improve the motivation of both the employers and their employees.
Study Findings:
The employers in the study indicated that they took responsibility for giving support and guidance to their workers in returning to work. They said this support was particularly important in the early stages of injury, to improve motivation and begin work rehabilitation. The employers also realised that they had a responsibility to assist employees in identifying early signs of illness, and to make early changes to the workplace to accommodate injury.

Personal contact was a strong motivating force both for employees and for employers.

Employers noted that when they were communicating well with insurers and rehabilitation teams, the employer's own motivation increased. Employers becoming involved early in the rehabilitation process not only assisted employees to return to work, but gave the employers increased satisfaction. When employers helped employees to structure and create realistic goals it motivated both parties. Unfortunately in practice many employees' goals are not reached, often because their goals were not discussed with their employers and not realistic.

Personal contact with workers was said to be the basic ingredient for jointly setting return to work and treatment goals. As a person's whole life situation affects their recovery from injury, the family and the workplace should be involved, alongside insurers and health professionals, in planning treatment and return to work.

The results of this study supported other studies that have shown rehabilitation is more effective when:
  1. employers take a cooperative approach that considers the workers' views
  2. the workplace uses education to assist rehabilitation
  3. there is good communication between employers, insurers and health professionals involved in the rehabilitation process.
The employers in this study indicated shared planning and decision making should be practiced routinely in the workplace so that an atmosphere of mutual trust exists prior to any injuries.

Previous research has shown that what the worker sees as “a successful rehabilitation result" is shaped by their attitude to their illness and the relevance of returning to work. Understanding a person's view of their impairment takes time and effort, but will be rewarded with greater motivation from both the employer and the worker.

In general, employers can assist return to work if they:
  • motivate and guide employees in their return to work after injury
  • help employees to set clear, realistic goals for returning to work
  • encourage employees to share the responsibility for making decisions about their rehabilitation
PubMed Abstract
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