It is important to talk with your healthcare providers well before going back to work.
Because this will give you time to think about any challenges you may have and plan how to address them. You can ask your healthcare team about your expected recovery and whether or when you will be able to return to your old job or an accommodated one offered by your employer based on your current restrictions or abilities. By planning ahead, you may avoid any income or job loss.
What should you do?
- If you have a job to return to, tell your doctor about the demands of your job and your duties. For help assessing your job, read our article Assessing Job Demands.
- Discuss what you think might delay your return to work. For help assessing your abilities, read our article Assessing your Work Abilities.
- Ask if something can be done to improve your abilities.
- If your doctor feels the following will help, ask for referrals to:
- rehabilitation programs
- a vocational rehabilitation counsellor
- a social worker or case coordinator
- exercise programs
- other services your doctor feels will help
- If you have insurance provisions such as long-term disability, discuss with your doctors what the best options are in light of your treatment and rehabilitation plan.
- If your doctor feels you are ready to return to work, get as much information as possible about what the doctor feels you can or cannot do. This includes:
- Should you limit certain job tasks?
- How long can you work each day?
- How long before you can work full time?
- How will your work abilities change over time?
- How long before you get back to fully functioning?
For more ideas, ask your healthcare provider what to expect.
If you find it too difficult to assess your own work abilities, an assessment by a health professional can help. Occupational therapists, physiotherapists and kinesiologists can assess your physical abilities through functional capacity evaluations. Psychologists, neuropsychologists or occupational therapists specializing in neurology can assess your abilities to think (cognition). They might help you to figure out how cognitive limitations might affect your performance at work and what to do about this.
Before having your work abilities assessed by a health professional, it is important to analyze your job demands and duties as well as your working conditions. That way, the assessment will be most relevant for your work situation.
Your doctor may need to fill out forms from your employer or insurance company about your work abilities and readiness to return. Based on your doctor’s recommendations, your employer will figure out whether or not a job is ready for you or if they can make changes to your job (accommodations) for you to return. Because insurance providers often ask all of your doctors about your ability to work, it is a good idea to tell your healthcare team about any physical, emotional or cognitive limitations you feel would affect the work you do.