Embracing new dimensions of return to work

July 14, 2022

Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on X

By Shane O’Dea, head of strategic partnerships and programs, workers compensation

Grabbing breakfast on-the-go, rushing to catch public transportation, or getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in order to work the traditional 9-to-5 is no longer the standard for many in the workforce in Australia and around the world.

Remote, hybrid and flexible work options continue to present employers with opportunities to help employees stay healthy and safe and support them if they experience an illness or injury.


The Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), a faculty of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), introduced a consensus statement over a decade ago with compelling evidence about the positive impact work can have on employee health and well-being. This still rings true today, but as the needs of employees continue to evolve, “work” has been redefined — and so has the idea of well-being. It’s no secret that many prefer the flexible work arrangements that became the norm during the pandemic. Many employers have reaped the benefits themselves — from improved resilience among their workforce to more positive outcomes for injured or ill employees during their recovery and return. The message is clear: addressing well-being at work is advantageous for everyone involved.


As a resident of Melbourne, Australia — one of the most restricted cities in the world at the peak of the pandemic — I witnessed firsthand the adaptability of injured workers and those supporting them, despite the difficult circumstances. Many relied on employee assistance programs (EAPs) and other early intervention methods for support, and employers rose to the challenge of finding new ways to address their needs. In the United States, telehealth options proved to be an effective approach to treatment. Others who felt well enough were able to work remotely while experiencing a mild case of the flu or even COVID-19. They could not be on-site at work because of the risk to their colleagues and various government mandates, but flexible work options and a dose of resilience enabled them to remain productive while recovering at home.

Following Sedgwick’s acquisition of Direct Health Solutions (DHS), we saw firsthand the positive impact 24/7 nurse triage access had on employers supporting their ill or injured employees. In any given month since March 2020, up to 50% of DHS’ client workforces would contact them for employee absenteeism or injury assistance. In addition to on-call clinical support, DHS offered a human resource service to supplement employee assistance programs (EAPs). This allowed employers to support employee psychological connection at the workplace and overall well-being.

Employer considerations

Employers have an obligation to create and maintain a safe work environment — whether workers are on-site, remote or follow a hybrid schedule. Doing so requires a thoughtful plan for injury prevention, recovery and return to work. This may mean implementing mental and physical assessments of the workplace, redefining structure and connectivity or the willingness to make adjustments and provide accommodations. Complying with government guidelines and regulations is another factor to consider as employers update their policies. Following an advocacy model can help ensure the best level of support and care that leads to the best possible outcome.

What’s next?

While there are always evolving challenges related to return to work, creative thinking and the use of the latest technology can help us find solutions and exceed expectations. Whether an employee needs to take time off work for an illness or other life event, or a person is injured on-the-job, on a client’s premises or by their equipment or products, the Sedgwick team in Australia and around the world is here to take care of each of them. To learn more, visit our website.

Tags: advocacy, Australia, Casualty, Direct Health Solutions, EAP, Employee Assistance Plan, employee health, employer, employers, environment, hybrid, injured worker, Injured workers, international, Productivity, Remote workers, resilience, Resiliency, return to office, Return to work, RTW, Workers, workers' comp, Workers' compensation, Workforce