Worst Health Advice Ever? Don’t Rush Back…

Tim Sackett Benefits, Compensation/Cash Money, Driving Productivity, Good HR, Performance, Tim Sackett, wellness

I had surgery recently (yes, KD and JLee made me sign a release form about my health information in order to be HIPAA compliant, don’t you worry) and had to spend a few days in the hospital and some time at home recovering. The interesting part of the entire experience was the “negotiation” of my time off with my doctor.  My doctor explained the recovery (recovery for this post being defined as how long until you can go back to work) for my surgery was anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks.  Now, unless you’re removing my brain, there is no way I’m staying down 3 to 6 weeks.  So I made a joke like this to my doctor… to which he responded, “So, when do you want to go back?”

One week. I told him I’d give him a full week as that was all I scheduled out on my Outlook calendar. (And see: I’m writing this 4 days post-op).  My doctor then said, “Well I don’t recommend it, but I’ve had others like you (like me? what does that mean? Short red-headed Sparty fan – or something else, I just don’t know) who have made it back to work in about 10 days.”  Alright! That’s what I’m talking about, now I have a goal to beat, under 10 days!

This really got me to thinking, though. If I can do it in 10 days – who the heck is taking 6 weeks to recover?  So, I asked!  My doctor looked at me, trying to come up with a politically correct response, and said… “Well, it’s dependent upon each persons working situation.” What?!  It’s dependent upon whether an individual’s job is going to pay them to be off? Right. If a company will pay the person to be off for 6 weeks, amazingly, the person tends to take a full 6 weeks.  Wow – I want that person to work for me!

Are you kidding me!

This is a perfect, little look into the American workforce – through the eyes of a surgeon who could care less – which makes it even more unique.  So, my surgeon goes on to explain that every week he’ll meet with patients who have a job that is paying them the entire time they are “off” for surgery, and they will not be ready to return to work (too much pain, can’t do a full day, etc.), until the week before they won’t get paid to stay home anymore!  Conversely, he says people who tend to run their own company, be in a position that can’t be covered, or are in positions where their jobs won’t pay them – they go back to work sooner.  Interesting.

So, how do HR pros help their organizations manage this better? Develop a pre-leave-plan with the individual going out on medical leave.  People tend to meet post-surgical plans, if they have them in place – i.e., 3 weeks post-op we have a major project kicking off and we really need you back to lead this. That person will be back in 3 weeks.  This will help lessen those individuals taking advantage of your rich policy of salary continuation – and make sure both the individual and the organization get taken care of properly.

One other thing I noticed while on leave – everyone really goes out of their way to make sure you “don’t rush back” to work too soon.  You want to know why? It’s a big conspiracy.  If we all work together not to rush back to work, it becomes the new “normal” – not rushing back.  But really, that’s crap.  Get better and get back to work. Believe me when I say that 3 days of The Office re-runs is far too much.

Alright, my Vicodin is wearing off. Gotta run. I need another dose.