Peter Greaney, MD, wants you to know that there is value in the act of working, regardless of health status. Why is the value of work so important, he asked Tuesday morning at AIHce EXP. Not working carries more risk than many killer diseases and the most dangerous jobs. Greaney offered best practices for health risk identification, early reporting of injuries, immediate intervention, and staying at work or returning to work during recovery. He also discussed non-medical factors that contribute to prolonged disability, over-treatment of relatively minor injuries and poor return-to-work planning.

He advocates prompt reporting, immediate care and a safe return to work. He said injured employees who stay at or return to work as soon as possible do better physically and mentally.

Greaney explained that there are health risks associated with prolonged leave of absence, including poor mental health, higher rates of medical utilization, hospital admissions and suicide attempts.

He offered some tips for employer-based interventions to help employees return to work sooner after an injury or illness:

  • Senior management should be committed to their workforce health and safety.
  • Supervisor-employee collaboration and advocacy.
  • Reporting injury, illness or physical discomfort at the start.
  • Providing immediate and appropriate care and guidance.
  • Using work to promote recovery and sustain livelihoods.
  • Monitoring progress during recovery.

Greaney also said supervisors should maintain contact with absent workers and research the root cause for long-term injury and illness to take corrective action.