Communication should be a vital component of your return-to-work program. There should be solid communication between you, your injured employee and health care providers about the employee's recovery. Supervisors should demonstrate their concern by keeping in touch with an injured employee.

The goal is to get an injured employee back to work and feeling positive about their recovery. It's important to keep in mind that recovery periods vary; returning an injured employee too soon might undermine their recovery.

Design alternative work to fit recovering workers' circumstances. Modify an existing job, reduce the hours of an existing job, or combine tasks from several jobs. Alternative work can be full- or part-time, but should only last until the injured worker is released to the original job.

A properly executed return-to-work program can reduce the workdays lost to injuries, increase employee morale and save money. It can help you manage your experience modification factor (e-mod) and, in turn, your workers' compensation premium.

Greg Summerhays is director of public relations and community outreach at Workers Compensation Fund.