Image of two female co-workers talking in an office. One of the women is in a wheelchair.When an unexpected injury or disability prevents an experienced, valued employee from working temporarily, employers may face difficult choices. Most want to do their best to support employees, and the reality is that training new workers costs time and money. Fortunately, employers can use a number of strategies to help valued employees stay at work or return to work following the onset of illness or disability. Often, just a few simple modifications to an employee’s work environment, duties or schedule can facilitate their remaining a valuable member of the team. What’s more, in many instances, work itself can play an important role in the recovery process—benefiting employee and employer for years to come.

Want to Learn More?
There are a number of resources small businesses can use to learn more about strategies for helping employees return to work following injury or illness, such as:

In Action

The Communication Center, a media and presentation training firm based in Washington, D.C., understands firsthand that disability issues can affect anyone at any given time. That’s why the small business takes a strategic approach to stay-at-work and return-to-work practices designed to help employees continue working in the event of an unexpected illness, injury or life event. For example, when one of the firm’s most valuable consultants received a cancer diagnosis, management arranged for her to take unexpected leave to receive treatment, with the assurance that her job would be waiting for her when she returned.  And once she was back on the job, the firm worked with her to customize a flexible work schedule that allowed her to manage her health needs. Another staffer was able to conduct a remote training session for a client while he was home recovering from hip surgery, all enabled by video chat technology. “Life happens, and we understand that,” says Dean Jones, the company’s president. “So if keeping a valuable employee on the job means customizing how and when they work, we’re always prepared to do that.”