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.

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