How to have a successful return to work

How to have a successful return to workAfter an employee has been absent from the workplace for a long time – perhaps as a result of illness or family emergency – reintegrating back into the work environment can be a stressful situation. People may have changed, roles may have changed and the overall sudden switch from being home (or in hospital) to being at work can feel overwhelming.

However, there are some ways that employers can ease employees back into the workplace, making the situation more comfortable not just for the returning employee, but for employees already there and for the employer itself.

Start slowly

One way to ease the transition is to have employees return on a part-time or flex hour schedule at first. Jumping into an eight-hour, five-days per week routine is a huge change, especially for an employee who has recently been handling health woes or emotional stress. If possible, allow the employee to return for just a few days a week or for half-days at first. After a few weeks, increase the time, until the employee is back to full-time hours.

Accommodate as needed

Depending on the reason for the employee’s departure, the employer may need to make some modifications to the employee’s role. Perhaps there are physical limitations that need to be accommodated, or social concerns that need to be addressed. Work with the employee to determine what he or she can handle and create a work space that addresses any issues. As well, it may be important to discuss modifications with other employees working directly with the situation, in order to address any concerns from others before they arise. Note that the employer must be careful and take measures to ensure it doesn’t violate the returning employee’s confidentiality when making arrangements with other staff members.

Communicate regularly

The returning employee may feel uncertain in the new work environment and may be afraid to express his or her concerns. Employers should check in regularly with the employee, to ensure he or she is adjusting to being back to work and is feeling comfortable in the situation. Not only will this enable the employer to catch any issues, it will also help to boost the employee’s morale and overall engagement within the workplace.