Extended Work Hours Should Factor Into Returning Workers to Job

Rehabilitation specialists guiding injured workers back to full-time employment should factor unconventional work schedules into their assessments and planning, new research suggests.

Workers who are injured on the job have a harder time returning to employment if their schedules routinely require them to work extended hours, according to an Ohio State University study. Those who work more than 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week in particular are at the highest risk of losing their jobs when compared to injured workers returning to jobs with conventional eight-hour day shifts and 40-hour work weeks.

For those working extended hours per week, injured employees were 70 percent more likely to quit and 81 percent more likely to be fired than were their counterparts returning to jobs with conventional schedules.

Because of this, the researchers say that occupational rehabilitation professionals should routinely consider employees' work schedules as part of their evaluations. Current rehabilitation efforts tend to emphasize the ability of returning workers to perform tasks associated with their jobs, but not when or how long recovering employees will work each day.

"What's lacking in America is an integrated process to get an injured person back to work that takes into account multiple factors. Right now, there are too many silos in the rehabilitation process. A more sophisticated model is needed," said lead study author Allard Dembe, associate professor and chair of health services management and policy at Ohio State.

The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation.

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