Supporting someone to return to work after a serious injury or illness can be a difficult process when there have been many health professionals involved in their care, and many opinions on whether and when they may be fit to return to work.

Returning to work is not only of economic significance to the individual and the wider social economy, but is also an important part of recovery from injury or illness, being known to have a therapeutic benefit in the short to medium term and health protecting effects in the long term. Effective return to work planning for those with more complex conditions or social situations often requires a collaborative team approach of the individual, the health care advisors, employment support advisors and their employer (where applicable) but this is not always easy to co-ordinate.

Heather Watson is a Physiotherapist who has spent over 20 years specialising in supporting people to return to work after physical injury and illness, and has set up award winning return to work services that have catered for conditions from minor musculoskeletal disorders through to serious trauma and illness.

Over the next two weeks, Heather will share some of her tips for planning to return to work:

It is important to remember that there are many people around the world who have long term health conditions who go to work every day, some people need very few changes to enable them to carry out their work, others need considerable help to find new work that matches their new physical capabilities as well as their knowledge and skills, and then some also need practical support with workplace adaptations or additional support to travel to a workplace.


It can be a difficult question – when is it the right time to return to work? There is no single answer, every individual is different, but here are some suggestions:

Getting the team in place:

Return to work does need some advance thought and planning to make it as successful as possible for the individual and the employer. The individual is going to need help from all sides, and we know that well meaning friends and family can stall people’s plans to return to work believing they are protecting them.


Part two of Heather’s tips for planning to return to work will be published on Wednesday, 8 March.