Five proactive ways leaders can support injured workers during their return and recovery at work

An injured worker doesn’t mean you have lost a worker.

In fact, they can become your best team members.

Statistics from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) indicate that the longer a person is off work, the less likely they are to return.

If someone is off work for 20 days, they have a 70% chance of returning – by contrast, if someone is off for 70 days this decreases to just 35%.

While treatment and recovery play a large part in the recovery at work process, social connection is also very much part of the foundation of someone’s rehabilitation.

We’ve put together a list of ways leaders, managers and supervisors can proactively support injured workers, to improve their recovery and ongoing success in the workplace.

What role do leaders, managers and supervisors play in the recovery at work process?

Leaders in your organisation have a significant role to play in supporting injured workers back to work.

The managers and supervisors at your workplace are considered to be one of the essential and primary sources of contact for the injured worker.

Additionally, they will likely become involved in the worker’s return to the workplace process, or as a representative of your organisation for any treating professionals, too.

But when it comes to one-on-one support for the injured worker, leaders don’t have to take the place of an experienced counsellor or workplace safety officer – all they have to do is be what they are, which is a leader.

Someone who can be an encouraging, supportive and a welcoming presence – a person the worker trusts and can look to.

Some of the ways leaders are part of the recovery at work process include:

  • Considering the key parts of your worker’s role and what needs to be done, how and why it needs to done and when.
  • Talking to the worker, their treating professionals and identify their strengths as a starting point for finding out what they can do and if their duties need to be modified.
  • Considering if changes need to be made to your workplace or their workstation to support them.
  • Communicating with your worker throughout the process.

Can they support workers in other ways?


There are a range of ways leaders can make further positive contributions to make a worker’s return after injury smoother and more sustainable.

The most integral thing will be to respect their confidentiality.

The worker’s compensation and/or recovery at work process can be complex, disorientating and an incredibly vulnerable time for an injured worker.

Maintaining trust and an open channel of communication throughout this process will make this process easier for both of you.

The solid foundation of trust created by this is a key long-term benefit.

Simply, a supported worker is a loyal worker. Someone who will stay with your organisation and show your team and colleagues the positive outcomes which can be achieved.

Along with these, other benefits for the worker cited by Comcare include:

  • Maintaining connections with their workplace and feel supported.
  • Returning to pre-injury activities and lifestyle and encourage your recovery by staying active.
  • Increasing their confidence in managing their injury and give you a focus on ability rather than disability.
  • Minimise their risk of long-term disability, absence from the workplace and can prevent other health issues from developing.
  • Supporting their participation, independence and social inclusion.

Further ways for leaders to support injured workers

  • While they are away from work, try to keep your team informed while maintaining the worker’s confidentiality. Talk about a gradual return to the workplace with the worker and your team, a person can still make a safe return to work while injured.
  • As they prepare to return, it can help to work with your team to help plan suitable duties for the worker.
  • When they continue to recover at work, it will be a gradual process of adjustment for everyone as the worker resumes duties or build up to their previous or new capacity.
  • In the early days of recovery at work, it can greatly help to be flexible and reassuring. The beginning of the recovery at work journey isn’t an ongoing indicator of what things will continue to be like.
  • Ongoing, make time to check in with the worker to see how they are faring. This effort reinforces to them they have an open line of communication with you and can share if they are having issues.

To discuss other ways that leaders can support their workers during their recovery at work, contact us on 1300 967 522 or