The University Record, February 1, 1999

'Work~Connections' designed to support ill, injured employees

By Vivian Byrd
Work~Connections

The University has launched a new program designed to assist in a caring and supportive way faculty and staff who experience an illness or injury, either non-work-related or work-related.

"Work~Connections is an integrated disability services program that offers 'one-stop' access to University services that continues through recovery and safe return to work," explains Jackie McClain, executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action (HR/AA).

To make "one-stop" access possible, Work~Connections incorporates different reporting processes for work- and non-work-related injuries and illnesses, says Norman G. Herbert, associate vice president and treasurer. "On Jan. 1, all University units began reporting all work-related illnesses and injuries to Work~Connections for administration. Reporting of non-work-related illnesses and injuries will begin for each department as the unit implements the program."

Work~Connections is being introduced in phases. In Phase I, which began Jan. 1, the Plant Department implemented the new services program. During Phase II, which begins today (Feb. 1), the Health System's Hospitals and Health Centers will implement the program. Phase III will occur later this spring when the Housing Division adopts the program. The rest of the University will implement the program by the end of 1999. From that point, all non-work-related and work-related illnesses and injuries at the University will be reported to and administered by the Work~Connections program. Each unit will notify its faculty and staff when the program is implemented.

Typically, supervisors will report incidents to Work~Connections. However, if ill or injured employees feel they can benefit from Work~Connections services and want to contact the office right away for assistance, they are free to do so.

Work~Connections is designed to support and assist faculty and staff during an injury or illness and the subsequent recovery and successful return to work. During the past year, a successful pilot program was conducted in the Plant Department. Employees and supervisors reported that assistance provided through the program was very helpful to them.

Work~Connections is a "faculty- and staff-centered" program, says McClain. "It will help employees by providing services that consider their needs, as well as the University's need for a healthy and able workforce, and will provide the necessary services to meet those needs in a consistent, service-based process that is committed to the employee's well-being and productivity. A 'faculty- and staff-centered' service relies on the employee's need to be connected to the workplace and productive in his or her career," McClain explains.

Work~Connections uses a team approach to provide assistance. The team includes the faculty or staff member, his or her supervisor, and staff from Human Resources, Risk Management, MWorks or Employee Health Service, the employing unit and treatment professionals.

Work~Connections provides:

Confidentiality.

Trained professionals who are available to help, including registered nurses, vocational rehabilitation counselors, consulting physicians and others.

A centralized support team--all University services needed during recovery and return to work can be reached through the Work~Connections team.

Continuity and ongoing contact--the Work~Connections team works to assist the faculty or staff member and the supervisor through the recovery period and a successful return to work.

Consistent services and results for every faculty and staff member.

Return-to-work support, such as accommodations and job analysis.

Equal access to services.

A qualified professional to coordinate all necessary and useful services and ensure their delivery.

Work~Connections is sponsored by Risk Management and HRAA at no cost to all faculty and non-student staff members.

Work~Connections can be reached at its toll-free phone number, (877) 869-5266, or by sending e-mail to Work.Connections@umich.edu. The office, located at 2072 Administrative Services Building at Hoover and Greene Streets, is wheelchair-accessible, is on the University commuter bus line, and is across the street from a surface parking lot.

For more information on the program, call Work~Connections and request an information kit, or visit its Web site at www.umich.edu/~connect.