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6. Monitor the return to work

Step 6 of 6 in getting ready to return to work:

A big part of successfully returning to work is developing a monitoring plan. This plan attempts to anticipate challenges and provides opportunities for addressing these challenges as they arise. Returning to work is a process, and the plan may need to change along the way to be successful over the long term. Monitoring is also needed after the return to work process is complete, to address any challenges that may come up after the employee has resumed full work duties. Too often it is assumed that once an employee is back to work full time they have fully recovered and no more challenges need to be addressed.

Some cancer survivors may need both temporary and permanent adjustments in their jobs to keep working productively. Ongoing monitoring is essential if the employee’s cancer is expected to progress and they are able to continue working as long as they can with the right supports. Ongoing monitoring helps to assess whether:

  • the survivor can handle the demands of the job
  • the adjustments set up in the return to work plan address the employee’s current limitations and restrictions
  • accommodations are still needed
  • unforeseen late and side effects of cancer or its treatment present new challenges
  • accommodations need to be changed
  • new accommodations need to be put in place

Ongoing monitoring enables managers and employees to quickly address any challenges that arise before they escalate and negatively affect productivity, costs and work team morale.

Create a monitoring plan

A monitoring plan can describe:

  • the number of workdays and hours per day that the employee will be expected to complete
  • how, by whom and how often the employee’s progress will be monitored, recorded and shared
  • how return to work and accommodation plans will be modified
  • how work hours and tasks will gradually increase
  • the anticipated schedule for increasing work hours and resumption of tasks
  • regular meetings between the supervisor and employee to monitor the return to work

Schedule regular monitoring meetings

When the employee first returns to work, success principles show that weekly meetings between employee and supervisor are key to successfully returning to work. During these meetings, it is helpful to review the employee’s performance over the previous week and to discuss successes as well as challenges for that week. Cancer survivors often need to see their doctors regularly to address the short and late side effects of cancer and its treatment. Encouraging the employee to tell the supervisor about these appointments as soon as they are made will help the supervisor manage the team’s workload to cover the employee’s time off.

Weekly meetings will also allow the supervisor and employee to address any issues and concerns right away. These include any challenges that have arisen or possible job accommodations that would allow the employee to keep working at their most productive and safe level. At weekly meetings, the employee may choose to discuss the support they are receiving from team members if this is a concern.

Monitoring meetings are an ideal time to review the next steps in the return to work plan to make sure the employee is progressing as anticipated.  In some cases it may be easier for the employee and employer if an employee may be maintained at a certain level of hours for a period of time until they are able to take on more hours. This graduate approach may prevent the need of constantly revising the return to work plan. If the supervisor feels the employee is not improving, it is important to let all stakeholders (e.g., employer, human resources department, insurance case manager, return to work coordinator, disability manager) know that the employee is experiencing difficulties and to encourage the employee to discuss these difficulties with their healthcare team.

It may be worthwhile to continue meeting weekly during the first month after the employee is back to work full time, then schedule monitoring meetings less often, as needed. Long-term monitoring is still valuable to evaluate the ongoing success of the return to work plan. This evaluation may produce beneficial information for developing employer-wide return to work policies.

Other helpful resources

For other ideas on the return to work processes and downloadable forms, see: Employer’s Toolkit: Making Ontario Workplaces Accessible to People With Disabilities (2nd edition) by Louise Chénier and Jane Vellone from the Conference Board of Canada, 2015.

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps