Returning to Work

After a person experiences an injury and has taken time off work to recover, he or she will need to go through a transition period when first returning to work. Transitional work is a step in the recovery process when a person is able to complete some job tasks but is not quite back to 100%.

A transitional work program involves job coaching, instruction, and education in safe work practices to prevent further injury. The program usually includes a combination of job tasks that a worker is able to perform safely.

An Occupational Therapist trained in return-to-work services can evaluate a person’s ability to complete his or her job tasks and oversee a company’s return-to-work program.

The goal of Occupational Therapy is to provide the returning worker with tasks that are meaningful and to assist the worker’s complete and total independence and function at work. A transitional work program also allows for the use of environmentally focused interventions that integrate good, healthy ergonomic practices.

What can an Occupational Therapist do?

  • Evaluate a person while on the job to determine his or her ability to complete job tasks.
  • Recommend adjustments to tasks so that the worker can safely complete them.
  • Identify an employee’s significant job tasks.
  • Implement and supervise a company’s return-to-work program to ensure a safe, productive, and functional work environment.
  • Monitor a worker’s progress regularly and reassess to determine when work tasks can be promoted to full duty.

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What can a person returning to work do?

  • Do not discount your injury and overestimate your ability and capacity to perform job tasks.
  • Complete tasks progressively on the guidance of your Occupational Therapist, health care professionals, and employer.
  • Implement the use of assistive devices that may facilitate the safe completion of a task.
  • Develop strength and endurance in tasks.

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Need more information?

A return-to-work program that includes transitional work for employees is an important component of a company’s healthy work environment. If you would like to consult an Occupational Therapist about transitional work, practitioners are available through most hospitals, community clinics, and medical centers.

Occupational Therapists and occupational therapy assistants are trained in helping both adults and children with a broad range of physical, developmental, and psychological conditions. Practitioners also help clients and their caregivers with techniques that can prevent injury, secondary complications, and support health and well-being. Contact your local health organization for more information.


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