I’ve been curious of late as to why there was still the reputation that return to work and recovery are not working.
When I say it’s not working, it’s not moving fast enough. It’s not resulting in sustainable employment outcomes. It feels like it’s taking too long, and it feels like it’s incredibly expensive.
I’ve created a short video to explain this thinking.
My investigation showed me that we are living in an age where we are time, energy and resource poor. Where we are constantly being asked to be mindful of how long an activity is going to take, how much an activity is going to cost.
The result – it’s really easy for us to forgo strategy & comprehensive analysis and go straight to tactics. Tactics give us a sense that we are making progress quickly. When we consider a person returning to work following an injury or illness, we go straight to their medical capacity. If they have a job that they’re still attached to, we will then look at suitable duties and then we will implement and upgrading schedule.
But how many of us know that that doesn’t always result in a return to pre injury work capacity and pre injury earning capacity. If a person doesn’t have a job to return to, we look at their medical capacity. We go straight to a transferable skills analysis and then we embark on job placement. Again, uncovering that there are many other barriers that we could have been made aware of if we had uncovered them earlier on.
You see the linear process of identifying a diagnosis, the functional expectations of that diagnosis and how that relates to task performance is flawed. It’s always been flawed but it’s easy to assess and it’s easy to manage.
Is this why we are seeing a move into the wellness framework? Is this the answer? Is that more apps, more tech, more investment in cure? Can I suggest that while these things are great, useful and helpful, in a short term, they are just more modern versions of the same thing. They are tactics. They have quick uptake for a short period of time, but are we going to see these types of sustainable results we’re all seeking? We’re all searching and we’re all wanting to lay claim to.
As we have learned from the famous book, the Art of War tactics without strategy is just the noise before the defeat.
Could this be why there continues to be a vocal expression that rehabilitation & return to work services just don’t work? Now, I could talk on my very strong opinions for a very long time, but I won’t. Not today, but what I do want to do is highlight one question we can be asking any person, be a client, a claimant or beneficiary, participant and employee who find themselves unable to work due to a health event and needing to recover.
In the 20 years I’ve been working as a consultant, rehabilitation counsellor, the reasons why people work are pretty straight forward. However, these reasons become disconnected when our recovery at work process is little more than executing functional expectations of a medical diagnosis through task performance.
Our tactics for recovery to help people return to health and their earning capacity greatly improve when we can connect for our clients how participating in recovery helps them meet their purpose in working in the first place.
For a lot of people work allows them to earn an income to support their lifestyle. You may be interested to know that many men have told me that work is important to them so they can be a good role model for their children, and for many women there has been a cry to resume their pre-disability work capacity because of the incredible sacrifices their career required of them.
So, it’s time for us as health professionals who claim to specialize in this work, to let go of our love of tactics as the place we start. I know they feel like they are the easiest to create a SMART goal around, but really, it’s a small part of a much bigger problem.
It’s time to mature our thinking and our capability and strategically empower our clients to connect their recovery to their reason for working.
Recovering from a health event that takes us out of work is hard enough without the process and the people involved losing sight of why work is important for this person in front of us in the first place.
I’m interested to know your thoughts. How do you talk about the purpose of work with your clients? I’m Jo from Purple Co and I’m looking forward to sharing with you again.
Who is Jo Muirhead?
Jo is all about connecting people to purpose through inspiration and innovation. Author of The Entrepreneurial Clinician, she is also the Founder and Principal Consultant of PurpleCo – a team of specialist allied health consultants dedicated to helping people who experience injury illness and trauma reclaim their lives through work.
Jo graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Health Science, Rehabilitation Counselling in 1994.
Jo is passionate about the health benefits of work and truly believes that everyone has the right to meaningful and rewarding employment.
Purple Co grew out of this belief as a truncated form of PURpose for peoPLE.
How to contact Jo:
+61 414 276 265