How to Keep Employees Happy on Light Duty: 6 Helpful Examples
An Employer's Guide to Administrating Modified Duty
Having an employee experience an illness or go on disability can be tough for everyone involved. Employers are worried about decreasing productivity and other losses, and employees have to find a way to navigate their new normal.
Don't assume that a medical problem or disability automatically means that your employees are out of the running. Light duty can help keep employees productive and save companies from losing important talent.
Light duty is important for businesses and employees, but figuring out a light duty plan on the fly can be hard. That's why businesses should put work into developing them before they're needed.
Coming up with a light duty plan can be taxing if you aren't familiar with the concept. That's why we're here to help you get your light duty plan on track! Keep reading to learn and how you can help make light duty easy for your employees.
What Is Light Duty?
Essentially light duty (also known as modified duty) occurs when employees can't perform regular job tasks due to injury, disability, or other means. Instead of doing the usual duties their job would require, they do modified versions of their tasks. It's a way of providing alternative ways to work for employees.
Light duty work is usually assigned when certain criteria are met:
- An employee can't perform their usual position because of their disability with or without other reasonable accommodations
- The employee has been deemed fit to perform light duty jobs
- The reassignment to a light duty job won't cause undue hardship
Some employers choose to modify existing jobs to light duty. Others may have specific light duty jobs they reserve for people with disabilities. As light duty becomes more common, it won't be unusual to see some workplaces try to utilize both.
Light duty work can be seen as a part of the disability filing process. In order for light duty work to be assigned, employees will have to go to a doctor to be evaluated. That evaluation can give employers better insight into what their employees are capable of doing.
Typically light duty can be seen as anything that isn't physically demanding. Modified duty examples can include desk work, help with performance reviews, or even management and supervising duties.
Our 6 Must-Follow Tips for a Successful Light Duty Transition
When some people think about the changes a light duty job will bring they focus on the company itself. Few people think about how big of a change it is for the employee.
Going on light duty can cause a lot of stress. Employees can worry about their performance, their follow co-workes, and if the new change reflects badly on them.
There are a lot of things employers can do to make things better for employees on light duty. If you want to help them make the most of their new situation, remember to keep these tips in mind when you're working on their new light duty work plan.
1. Involve Them in the Process
Doctors, HR, and management are going to play a big role in determining the best way for light duty work to go forward. However, that doesn't mean that employees shouldn't be involved in the process.
Even if employees don't have the final say in what happens, their opinion is still very important. Make sure you involve employees when you think about the best way to accommodate them.
Involving them can ease some stress they may have around how they're perceived at work. When you involve them in the planning process you show them that their opinion matters and that they're still part of the team.
Employees can also give you valuable insight into the tasks they're best suited to do. You may even find that there are certain skills they have outside of their job that they can utilize in their new role.
2. Consider a Slow Return
Coming back to work after weeks or months of medical treatments, hospital stays, and doctor's visits can be difficult. Expecting an employee to step right into their light duty role without skipping a beat may be too much to expect.
Instead of having them go all in at once, consider letting them ease into the role. Think about different ways your employee can still have time to recover but also have the opportunity to work again.
Discuss having them come in a few days a week or having them work half days. Ask them if a hybrid work model where they split up their schedule between remote work and office work would help them.
A slow return to work doesn't just ease your employee into a new situation, it also helps you get used to light duty as well.
After a few weeks of work, you may find that there are other duties your light duty employee would be better suited to do. You may find that the original plan you laid out needs to be adjusted, but now you'll have plenty of time to make things right when they're back full-time.
3. Let Employees Know
HIPAA has very strict rules about what can and can't be said about employee health. There may be limits to what you can say, but that doesn't mean that you should keep others in the dark about what's going on.
It's important to let fellow co-workers and other people that interact with your light duty employee know that changes are happening in the department. This way there won't be any surprises when people notice schedules getting moved around or tasks getting assigned to other people.
Keeping everything in the loop has the added benefit of making the transition easier for the employee. They don't have to worry about "who knows" about their condition or if they'll be put in an awkward position by being asked to do something they're no longer capable of.
Talking to employees about upcoming light duty changes can also help create a supportive environment for your light duty employee and others on their team. They'll know that they may be expected to pitch in a bit more at work and that their coworker may need additional help. That transparency and honesty can create an environment everyone feels comfortable in.
4. Stress Your Flexibility
Life can be unpredictable for employees regardless of if they're on light duty or not. Doctor's appointments need to be attended and illnesses can pop up at any time, and dealing with those everyday troubles can be more difficult when you're disabled or adjusting to new physical limitations.
Let your employees know that you understand that certain things will pop up and that you're ready to work with their schedule. Sometimes just knowing that your employer understands that your schedule may change can be a big stress reliever.
Also, stress that you don't mind having to make adjustments to their new work plan. Let them know that you want them to be honest about how they're feeling on the job. If they're feeling like the work is too taxing you're willing to see how you can make things easier.
5. Assign Them a "Buddy"
It isn't unusual for some HR reps to pair new hires with more senior members of their team to ensure that they have someone to show them the ropes. Buddy systems can do a lot of good in the workplace.
Having someone your light duty employee could lean on for help can be very beneficial. This can be someone they can ask to do certain things they can no longer do easily on their own.
Their buddy could help them do work-related tasks, but there are still plenty of other things they may need help with. Having someone that doesn't mind fetching an extra cup of coffee from the breakroom or helping someone get to and from their car can be a huge stress reliever.
6. Constantly Check-In
Some people make the mistake of only checking-in on light duty employees when they first make the transition. Even though it's important to make sure they're handling their latest job changes well in the beginning, it's more important to monitor their progress beyond those first weeks.
Don't expect that employees will just come to you if they're having trouble with their new role. Some may be reluctant to bring up trouble because they're worried about it reflecting negatively on them, or could possibly put their job in jeopardy. Give them opportunities to check-in with you during scheduled meetings.
When you do these regular meetings, make sure you ask them how they feel about their current job duties. See if they're comfortable with the work they're doing, if they think they need to stop doing certain tasks, or even if they feel like they could be doing more.
Start Your Light Duty Strategy Today
Making the transition to light duty work doesn't have to be difficult. When you focus on understanding your employee's needs and keeping the lines of communication open, making the transition can be much easier than you'd think.
Do you want to work with a partner that can help you set your light duty workers and your company up for success? If so, we're ready to help.
Take some time to learn about our plans so you can think about the best ones for your workplace.