Reducing Work Comp Costs through Creative Return-To-Work

Reducing Work Comp Costs through Creative Return-To-WorkThere is a benefit to every workers’ compensation program when an employee returns to work following a work injury.  This is true even in instances where the employee returns to work in a “light duty” capacity.


Creating an effective return to work takes an investment by all interested stakeholders.  It also requires creativity and a willingness to keep employees within the workplace.  In the long run, it also reduces program costs and promotes a better work environment.



Understanding the Benefits of Light Duty Work


Engaging injured workers in light duty work creates a win-win situation for all interested stakeholders.  This includes the following:


  • Employees: A person staying at home following a work injury incurs many psychological barriers.  It not only takes the employee out of their natural schedule, but it creates isolation and boredom.  Countless studies show that employees working in a modified capacity following an injury have better outcomes and a quicker recovery.


  • Employers: Interested stakeholders who own and operate a company can create a positive work environment by offering light duty work options.  It allows the employer to demonstrate a willingness to keep employees working and increases workplace morale.  It also allows them to complete necessary tasks that might otherwise not get resolved promptly.



Light Duty Work:  Finding Creative Solutions to Keep Employee Working


There are numerous light-duty positions available for employers willing to keep employees working.  This applies to companies of any size.  All it takes is interested stakeholders willing to invest in their workforce:


**When reviewing this list, keep in mind the best light duty position is to modify the employee’s current position. If this is not an option, be creative to make transitional work meaningful for both employee and employer.***


Sedentary Work Opportunities:


  • Sort incoming and outgoing mail. This can also include the delivery of intra-office mail using a cart or other assistive devices;
  • Security guard positions;
  • Inventory parts, supplies, and tools;
  • Answering telephones and other clerical work;
  • Ordering of office supplies. This can also include making sure safety, and first-aid cabinets are fully stocked;
  • The labeling of packages and parcels;
  • Driving a work vehicle to make deliveries. In other instances, employees can be trained to operate equipment such as a forklift;
  • Train new employees and complete necessary training; and
  • Update MSDS manuals.


Lighter Duty Positions with Weight Restrictions:


  • Picking up trash around the office, work area and on the premise. Other forms of work can include sweeping and light cleaning to ensure a safe workplace;
  • Inspecting fire extinguishers, eye-wash machines, and other safety equipment;
  • Light housekeeping and dusting in office spaces;
  • Engage in workplace quality control and other necessary inspections;
  • Shredding of company documents that are confidential; and
  • Maintain the company premises using snow removal equipment and lawns during the summer months.


Light Duty Positions with Greater Weight/Mobility Restrictions:


  • Perform assembly work using machines;
  • Working in a shipping department that requires light lifting and use of assistive devices;
  • Washing company vehicles;
  • Work a normal job, but at a slower pace; and
  • Working normal position within specific limitations.



Other Creative Solutions to Light Duty Work


In some instances, an employer might not be able to offer an employee a light duty position within their workplace.  If this is the case, employers should seek other opportunities to help in the recovery process by keeping an employee working in another capacity.  Creative solutions can include:


  • “Work on Loan” programs: Under this type of program, the employer will collaborate with another employer or non-profit organization.  The employee will remain an employee of the date of injury employer, but perform work duties for the other organization; or


  • Paid volunteer work: In some instances, a charity might have volunteer work for people to perform, which matches an employee’s work restrictions.  The date of injury employer will pay the employee to perform work duties as assigned by the charity.




An effective return to work program requires all interested stakeholders to be engaged and seek to keep injured workers active and in the workplace.  By keeping an injured worker engaged, they can reduce costs through better injury recovery and reduced exposure for various wage loss, medical or vocational rehabilitation benefits.




Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .



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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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