Handbook Extract: Cultural Revolution

RTWMatters team

How people are dealt with following a work injury is in large part determined by workplace culture: the culture of the overall organisation and the culture of the return to work team.

The information in this article is from the Return to Work Matters Workplace Systems Handbook, under the Cultural Revolution chapter. The complete handbook is available in PDF and online format for all Return to Work Matters subscribers.

“The way things are done around here…”

The culture of a workplace is its ambience. It can be described as “the way things are done around here”. Workplace culture influences the behaviour of people within an organisation. It defines what acceptable behaviour is. It shapes what people do in order to fit in, be part of the team, accepted and rewarded within an organisation.

Organisational culture has a powerful impact on how people behave…

  • An individual who wants to work 9.00am to 5.00pm for work-life balance has difficulty advancing their career in a high profile accounting firm where most employees are driven to succeed and work long hours. They feel pressured to conform to the work patterns of colleagues.
  • In the past, working at heights without fall protection was common practice on many building sites. However workplace culture has changed. The community now believes that this is unacceptable behaviour and as a result rates of serious injuries from falls are lower.

A poor injury management culture will result in poor outcomes. Below, we outline the key elements of best practice workplace culture – and offer practical advice on how to start a cultural revolution in your organisation!

Workplace culture and injury management: "Give and Take" models. 

The culture of return to work management  is a subset of overall organisational culture. 

Roughly speaking, there are three models of return to work culture – the “give, give, give” model, the “give and take” model, and the “take, take, take” model. Best practice injury management relies on give and take.

“Give, give, give” model

When an organisation gives excessively:

  • Injured or ill employees become complacent.
  • Other staff and co-workers become frustrated.
  • Morale is reduced.

“Give and take” model

When an organisation gets the “give and take” balance right:

  • Employees are provided with help and support.
  • If employees are in need, their wellbeing is the organisation’s first priority.
  • In return, it is expected that employees will take an active role in injury prevention and rehabilitation, return to work at the earliest appropriate time, and contribute to the process with communication, commitment and integrity.

“Take, take, take” model

When an organisation takes excessively:

  • Employees suffer from burn out.
  • Staff turn-over is high.
  • Employees follow the organisation’s “take, take, take” example, and try to figure out what they can get in return.

Diagnostic tools: How healthy is your culture?

Is your organisation an excessive giver, an excessive taker, or have you got the balance right? The table below lays out the warning signs of an unhealthy injury management culture.

Signs of problem return to work culture:

  • Employees avoid reporting problems or report late.
  • Graduated return to work programs progress slowly.
  • Claim rates are higher than expected.
  • A significant proportion of staff remain on long-term restricted duties.
  • More than 5% of claims are investigated.
  • The organisation consistently faces resistance or lack of response from treating doctors.

Senior Management set the tone for people management - Educate them about what they can do to improve return to work outcomes

For more information on key elements of best practice RTW culture and transforming an unhealthy workplace culture, join Return to Work Matters today to access the complete handbook. 

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