Returning to work following long term absence

An indispensable tick list for managers helping employees to have a successful returning to work following longterm absence.

Research shows that the biat workggest barrier to employees returning to work following longterm absence is overcoming their own anxieties around returning to work.

The second biggest barrier is a lack of understanding and support from managers and organisations.

Here’s how you can help overcome those barriers.

During the employee’s absence, the manager should.

  • Regularly communicate with the individual via telephone or email.
  • Regularly communicate work issues with the individual to keep them in the loop.
  • Focus conversations more on the individual’s wellbeing
  • Keep in touch with the individual’s close colleagues with regards to their health.
  • Encourage work colleagues and other members of the organisation to keep in touch with the individual.
  • Make it clear that the individual should not rush back to work.
  • Make it clear that the company will support the individual during their absence.
  • Reassure the individual that their job will be there for them when they return.
  • Prevent the individual from pushing him/herself too much to return to work
  • Explain the return to work process/procedures to the individual before they return work.

When they return

  • Meet the individual on their first day back.
  • Make the individual’s first weeks back at work as low stress as possible.
  • Consider giving the individual lighter duties/ different jobs during their initial return to work.
  • Incorporate a phased return to work for the individual.
  • Remain objective when discussing return to work adaptations for the individual.
  • Explain any changes to the individual’s role, responsibilities and work practices.
  • Ask the individual’s permission to keep the team informed on their needs and return to work.
  • Make the individual feel like they were missed by the organisation.
  • Encourage colleagues to help in the individual’s rehabilitation process.
  • Promote a positive team spirit.
  • Regularly communicate with HR/OH and keep the individual informed.
  • Be proactive in arranging regular meetings to discuss the individual’s condition and the possible impact on their work.
  • Communicate openly.
  • Listens to the individual’s concerns.
  • Understands that, despite looking fine, the individual may still be ill.
  • Appreciate the individual’s wishes.
  • Have an open door policy so the individual can always approach you with any concerns.
  • Adapt your approach to be more sensitive towards the individual.
  • Allow the individual to maintain a certain level of normality.
  • Be quick to respond to the individual via email or telephone when they have a concern.
  • Take responsibility for the individual’s rehabilitation.
  • Acknowledges the impact the individual’s illness has on them.
  • Remain positive with the individual throughout their rehabilitation.
  • Show awareness of your relevant legal responsibilities.
  • Understand the need to make reasonable adjustments by law.
  • Follow the correct organisational procedures.

Competency interviews 3 steps to success.

Competency interviews 3 steps to success.

I successfully coach people to shine in this kind of interview. If you follow these 3 steps your likelihood of success will be very high. You wont be lost for words.

What is a competency-based interview?

The employer has a list of skills (competencies) that they require in the position they want to fill. By asking you questions about how you have demonstrated these skills in the past they aim to find out whether or not you have the skills need.

 If you haven’t already been told that the interview is a competency-based interview you can contact the employer and ask if there will be competency questions.

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Here are the 3 steps:

Step 1: The first thing you will need to do is make a list of the competencies you think the employer will be looking for. You can do this by looking at the job description and person specification that they gave you and by researching the company and other similar jobs. Look for key words. Have they asked for ‘good communication skills’? Did they say that you should have experience of ‘customer services’? Have they asked for any specific technical experience, maybe of a certain database or working on a specific machine? Make a list of those skills. Sometime companies have a list of values which they would like you to adhere to. Even if they don’t ask you a direct question about them they may be looking for you to demonstrate them in your answers. Make a list of those values.

You might end up with a list something like this:

  • Team work
  • Problem solving
  • Customer service
  • Report writing
  • Communication
  • Listening skills
  • Working independently
  • Working with integrity
  • Able to work with the XYZ customer database
  • Able to carry out daily maintenance on the ABC lawnmower.

 Competency questions will probably start like this:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you…………..?
  • Describe a situation when you………………….?
  • Tell me about a time when you needed to……………….

They will be more or less straight forward depending on how much detail they are looking for and if they are looking for anything specific.

Here some examples of questions about teams:

  • Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as part of a team.
  • Describe a situation where you were successful in getting people to work together effectively.
  • Describe a time when a team member has annoyed you.
  • Tell me about a time when you have had to modify yourself (or a way you do something) to take into account someone else’s views.
  • Tell me about a situation when you needed to offer constructive criticism to a friend or team member?
  • Describe a time when you were a member of a team and witnessed a conflict within the team. What did you do? What were the results? What could you have done better?

You will need to be prepared and rehearsed or you will be trying to trawl through you memory while you are in a stressful situation and that wont be very successful.

Step 2: You will need to prepare lots of examples of things you have done in past jobs that will show you in a positive light and demonstrate that you have the skills and the values they need. You have already made a list so now you need to write down and memorise your examples ensuring that you highlight and remember key words and phrases that demonstrate that you have and use the skills they want.

One good story can be used to answer more than one question. For example you might have dealt with a situation, which you used you, team work skills, communication skills and time management skills.

Don’t worry if you haven’t had a job before, try and use other experience like voluntary work, experience of being in a sports team etc. If you are on the spot and can’t bring anything to mind then tell the interviewers what you would do if you were in that situation. It might be worth preparing some of these too.

If you are preparing examples about something specific, team work for example, try and think of all the things that make a team work well and make sure they are used in your example. Did your team communicate well if so how? How did you influence this? Did your team have a shared goal? What was it? How was it identified? How were you instrumental in this? How did you share information with your manager? Did you ask for help when you needed it? How did you manage your stress levels?

Talking about these things will get you points in a scoring system.   LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY TO THE QUESTION. THERE MAY BE CLUES ABOUT WHAT INDICATORS THE INTERVIEWERS ARE LOOKING FOR. Competency questions can be long and detailed. Ask the interviewer to repeat it if you cant remember it or are not sure what they are looking for.

Learn these two models and apply your stories to them:

The STAR Model

  • Situation: Describe the situation.
  • Task: Describe what task was required of you.
  • Action: Tell the interviewer what action you took.
  • Result: Conclude by describing the result of that action.

Here is a template you can write the stories in

S Situation Describe the situation. What was it that prompted your action? Was there a crisis or a problem that needed to be resolved? Were you set some specific targets that you needed to meet? Did you have an amazing plan that you wanted to put in to action?
T Task Describe what task was required of you. What did you need to do? Why did you need to do it? Did you need to stop the leak so that the building would be safe or clean up the flood and get and emergency plumber? Did you need to find a way of motivating your team to get the results required? Did you need to learn to use this specific database by Friday?
A Action Tell the interviewer what action you took. What did you do? You did this and then you did this and then you did that. ‘I phoned the on call service to find out where the building file is kept, I looked in the file to find out where the stop cock is’ and so on.
R Result Conclude by describing result of that action.   Make sure result was positive. Because you dealt with the situation appropriately every thing was better than it had been or could have been.

Be positive about your actions throughout your response and do not make up an example as you will NOT come across as believable. If you cannot think of good examples instantly, ask the interviewer for a moment or two to think about the question and then give your answer.

The CAR Model “Context” is your introduction, where you describe the scenario you faced, date and place. The “Action” forms the main body and should be the longest part of your answer. The “Result” is the conclusion and like the introduction, should be quite short.

  • Context: Describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when, where, with whom?
  • Action: How? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did without mentioning their individual contribution.
  • Result: What results did you achieve/conclusions did you reach/what did you learn from the experience?

Here is a template for the CAR Model:

C Describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when, where, with whom?
A How? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did without mentioning their individual contribution.

How did you do what you did? What did you want to achieve? In what order did you do things? What skills did you use and how? How did you communicate? How did you manage your time? How did you learn what you needed to learn?

R What results did you achieve/conclusions did you reach/what did you learn from the experience? Keep it positive!!!

Step 3: Now practice. Book a practice interview with a career coach or get a friend to interview you. Prepare some questions for them to ask you and do a role-play. Tell your coach or friend what skills the employer is looking for. Answer the questions as though you are in the interview and get them to give you feedback. Writing down your answers and saying them out loud will help you to remember and will give you confidence.

Good Luck

Extracts Taken from Wikijob

Disability and Work

6 Facts You Might Not Know About Disability and Work. The Papworth Trust have been producing a report, annually, for the past 5 years which contains statistics around disability and work.  There are some interesting stats around disability and work. Occupational therapy large
  1. Over 50% of working age people who are out of work (either unemployed or economically inactive) are disabled people.
  2. Disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. In March 2013, the unemployment rate for disabled people stood at 12%, compared to 7.6% of non-disabled people.
  3. 57% of adults with impairments experience barriers to employment (in the type or amount of paid work they do), compared with 26% of adults without impairments.
  4. The 2 most commonly stated enablers for employment among adults with impairments are flexible hours/days and tax credits.
  5. The 2 most common barriers to work among adults with impairments are a lack of job opportunities (43%) and difficulty with transport (29%).
  6. 1 in 6 people who become disabled while in work lose their job during the first year after becoming disabled.

Flexible working and disability

8 Reasons why Flexible Working for people with disabilities is good for the Employer as well as the Employee.

The Papworth Trust report ‘Disability in the United Kingdom 2013, Fact and Figures’ reports that one of the most commonly stated enablers for employment among adults with impairments is flexible working hours/days.

blog image3Being creative is important when considering flexible hours. Below are some examples which could act as prompts for line managers and employees exploring this issue together

  • Take a flexible approach to start/finish times and/or shift patterns
  • Allow use of paid or unpaid leave for medical appointments
  • Phase the return to work, e.g. offering temporary part-time hours
  • Equal amount of break time, but in shorter, more frequent chunks
  • Allow someone to arrange their annual leave so that is spaced regularly throughout the year
  • Allow the possibility to work from home at times
  • Temporary reallocation of some tasks often improve output where its needed
  1. Making these adjustments could help avoid unplanned absences and enable you to manage and cover planned absences from the work place.
  2. These adjustments could reduce sickness absence time taken by the employee and will improve punctuality issues.
  3. Flexible working patterns allows people to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and are more able to work.
  4. These adjustments can be used as part of the employee’s recovery so need not be permanent.
  5. Flexible working times will give the employee an increased feeling of personal control over schedule and work environment and in turn a feeling of being able to manage their condition.
  6. Flexible hours of work are likely to reduce employee burnout due to overload.
  7. A flexible approach could allow the employer to respond to peaks and troughs in work demands as they occur.
  8. Being responsive and flexible improves morale and productivity and will also improve recruitment and retention