The end goal in a workers’ compensation claim is to get the employee in the position to be able to go back to work. Work rehabilitation has long been a factor that contributes to this goal. By providing employees with the proper physical therapy to be able to successfully do their job once more, it is not only improving the well-being of the employee, but also benefits the employer as the carrier can typically closer the claim quicker. However, work rehabilitation programs have changed, and new and more efficient programs have mostly replaced the more scattered, outdated rehab plans of the past.

Work Hardening and Conditioning

A term that many often use in correlation with workers’ comp is "work hardening." Work hardening is a multi-focus regiment used to physically and mentally prepare employees to return to work. Sessions run several hours long, are often five days a week, and can take as long as eight weeks to complete. In the past, this type of return to work effort was used mainly for skilled laborers who needed to regain dexterity to perform their job again. The problem with work hardening is that most employees injured on the job do not need rehabilitation to the extent that it is designed to provide. The cost of the problem often outweighs the value.

Work conditioning is another method of workers’ comp rehabilitation that is more boot camp-like. The regiment includes an individualized plan for recovery, but focuses more on the physical aspect of returning to work only.

New and Improved Rehabilitation

Today, new return to work programs are using a mixture of the two techniques to create the advanced work rehabilitation plans that health care professionals commonly use for the modern injured worker. There are a few key factors contributing to the success of the program.

  • Personalizing: Crafting the rehabilitation plan to each employee is important to make the program as efficient as possible. Each workers’ comp injury can be vastly different from the next, and so it stands to reason that every rehabilitation plan should be different as well.

  • Focus on Job-Specific Functions: The primary goal in back to work rehabilitation is for the employee to get back the ability to do their job unhindered. Returning to work may require small steps to accomplish, but by focusing on the specific functions they need to perform their job tasks, workers’ are typically able to return to work faster than they are with multi-function rehab plans. By strengthening the functions that the employee uses on a daily basis on the job, there is also a lower chance of re-injury. 

  • Faster Recovery: With the specificity of today’s return to work programs, workers’ are often able to return to the job much faster than they had in the past. The employer clearly benefits from this as the cost of the workers’ comp claim is less, but it also benefits the employee as well. The longer one is out from work, the harder it is to return. Benefiting from a quick recovery, the worker can get back into the flow of things faster and become a productive member of the workforce once again.


Getting injured on the job is not an ideal situation for anyone. Typically, neither the employee nor their employer wants to see the worker undergo the arduous and sometimes painful process of rehabilitation. Though it can seem like a daunting task to undertake, by utilizing the personalized workers’ comp rehabilitation programs available today, employees are now able to get on the path to recovery and return to work faster than ever.

For more information contact: Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600