When the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) decided to update its Return to Work Basics workshop, it wanted to build confidence in the content by including evidence-based guidance from trusted sources. For a key part of the workshop, it turned to the Institute for Work & Health (IWH).
The WCB’s Return to Work Basics workshop, first created about 10 years ago, recently underwent a thorough update. The updated workshop was piloted in June and July of 2022 and fully launched to WCB stakeholders in Manitoba in August.
The workshop, which lasts a full day, is designed to help employers develop (or update) and implement sound and effective return-to-work programs to support workers following a workplace injury or illness. Other WCB stakeholders, such as labour and union representatives, are also encouraged to attend. The workshop is accompanied by a manual that supports the workshop’s learning activities. The manual provides sample documents and additional references, including links to trusted sources of information.
The workshop is organized into six modules. The first objective of Module 3 is to “learn about the seven principles for a successful return to work program based on research conducted by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH).” The research being referred to is an IWH systematic review of studies on the effectiveness of return-to-work interventions, which identified elements contributing to a successful return to work that were then packaged into a guide available on the IWH website.
The WCB’s Module 3 describes the principles and how they should be applied when developing or evaluating a return-to-work program. The seven principles, which the WCB has slightly modified in its module to align with its policies and communication style guides, include the following:
- Organizational commitment
- Safe and suitable work
- Supportive workplace culture
- Knowledgeable supervisors who are trained in the employer’s return-to-work program
- Proactive communication with the worker
- Dedicated return-to-work coordinator
- Processes to identify and review worker abilities.
Referencing the valuable work of IWH helps bring legitimacy to the content of the workshop, says Kim Keating, Manager, Return to Work Program Services, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba.
IWH is seen as an impartial, evidence-based source of information for both prevention of work injury and illness and return-to-work strategies. The seven principles are foundational for the Return to Work Basics workshop. They are cited early in the program, and the subsequent modules build on these principles.
Workshop gets good initial feedback
Feedback from participants who took part in the updated workshop in the first few months following its launch has been very positive. A survey at the end of each workshop includes questions about the workshop’s content. For example, the survey asks if the workshop increased participants’ understanding of the subject and if they would be able to apply the training in their workplace. The average score on the content questions among the 136 people who attended the first 12 workshops was 3.94 on a scale that goes from 1.0 (poor) to 4.0 (excellent).
Keating and Jamie Hall, Vice President, SAFE Work Manitoba, a division of the WCB, have also been using IWH research in a presentation they have been giving called “Psychological Health & Safety and the Importance of Solid Return to Work Principles.” The presentation, delivered to audiences such as the Manitoba Chapter of Professionals in Human Resources and senior leaders at Corrections Manitoba, includes a slide on the seven principles (citing IWH as the source), and another on an IWH infographic on differences in return-to-work outcomes for work-related psychological and physical injuries. The latter was derived from findings of a research study conducted by a team from IWH and Monash University in Australia.
The importance of the seven principles is magnified when dealing with more complex or severe injuries or conditions, including those related to mental health, says Keating.
We continue to look to IWH research for reliable and impartial information to help guide our injury prevention and return-to-work policies and programs. We also encourage participants in our workshops to sign up for the IWH newsletter.