Reduced workers’ compensation costs, increased productivity, improved morale, savings of time and money, and retention of quality personnel—all of these benefits are the result of a well-executed transitional return-to-work program. 

What is an optimal return-to-work program comprised of?

A successful program requires effective communication between the employee, the employer, the insurance company, the medical staff, and the on-site return-to-work company. Additionally, a well-defined description of the employee’s job duties and how that matches up to the timeline expectations is paramount. Most return-to-work programs that fail do so because of unrealistic expectations of when an employee will be ready to return to full work duty without restrictions based on the severity of their injury and the demands of their job. 

According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), by the 12th week of leave, the likelihood of an injured employee returning back to work drops by 50%1. Employee Benefit News reports that it costs an employer 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace that employee2. These costs can be reduced or avoided altogether by having a comprehensive transitional return-to-work program in place.

At DORN, our mission is to make the return-to-work process as seamless as possible. We don’t believe in designing a “one size fits all” program because each employee and their job is unique. However, we do know that the most effective program is comprised of three main components:

Our practitioners are highly skilled at customizing these elements to the individual’s job and their injury. A transitional return-to-work program is the best way to ensure that absenteeism, presenteeism, and loss of time, money, and resources are kept to a minimum. It’s like an athlete coming off an injury—they need to time to rehab, but they move the process along to get fully back into the action. Our return-to-work programs mirror an Industrial Athlete Program (read more here), but for those who have been sidelined.  

The DORN programs have been very effective not only in ensuring employees return to full capacity and capability as quickly as possible, but also many times at an accelerated rate over traditional light duty. Light duty or accommodations are required in many organizations, but can be a budget drain. In fact, many of our clients do not even budget for that, as they feel it sends the wrong message to middle management on acceptability of poor injury management or preventative solutions. But when injuries do occur, moving employees towards full capacity is critical and requires a managed approach. 

If you wish to learn more about DORN’s RTW program, please see our overview of the program here and feel free to contact us.


[1] Orslene, L. Accommodation and Compliance Series: Return to Work Programs. Job Accommodation Network (JAN).
[2] Otto, Nick. “Avoidable turnover costing employers big.” Employer Benefit News, Accessed 12 August 2019.