Returning to work after sick leave implies a reunion with our role as employees after a necessary pause to recover strength, regain energy and gain momentum to try to be the professional we want to be.
When someone’s sick leave has been especially long, that is, several months, the isolation from work may have been so intense that resuming the activity needs a whole period of adjustment. Read on to find out more.
Returning to work after sick leave
It may be due to a physical health problem, maternity prolonged due to breastfeeding (and may sometimes have included a large part of the pregnancy), or even a sabbatical leave. The periods that distance us from our work can have different causes and, therefore, different durations.
However, one of the most critical examples is to be found in the absences – especially if they are prolonged – due to a decline in our mental health. Although the situations can vary, general examples are leaves of absence due to anxiety, stress, or depression.
Different ways to experience your return
If all goes well and the method works, there comes a time when the employee will be returning to work after sick leave.
Many people experience this moment for what it is: a return to everyday life after taking a break to take care of themselves. However, many also experience it with a certain apprehension, fear, or stress at the prospect of not knowing how the return will affect them and what they will come across once they are back at work.
Indeed, in those months, time has not stood still. Before returning to work after sick leave, we continued on our own for a while, taking care of our well-being or trying to do so. So has the company, whose activities have not stopped: work has continued, just as decisions have continued to be made and strategies devised, in this case without our direct involvement.
When we return, a part of us puts the play button where the pause button was, but in reality, during this pause period, certain things have happened in the company that makes the scene different.
Return to work protocol after an absence
To make things easier for both the individual and the team, companies need to have a strategy to support the employee in returning to work after sick leave.
It does not have to be a complex strategy, nor does the support process have to be very long. It is enough to consider certain psychosocial risks that may hinder the return to work and specific measures to be taken to prevent and address them.
In the case of a return from maternity leave, it is probably not as necessary or not in the same way. However, when the leave is due to a mental health problem -especially if the causes are work-related- it is essential that one of the main axes of this accompaniment strategy is to keep in mind the factors that led to the decision to take leave due to a mental health problem: the aim, of course, is not to repeat them.
Worries of returning to work after sick leave
1. Laziness, loss of routine, lack of energy
The commitment between the employee and their tasks may have declined when the duration of their leave is prolonged due to the detachment from those same tasks, colleagues, the dynamics of the company in general.
Part of the protocol that the company weighs for the return to work after a period of sick leave must consider this factor to reconstruct the cracks that may have surfaced between the employee and their role in the company.
2. Fear of flux
It is common for an employee who has been out of the office for a certain period to fear that they may have become worn out or have lost their abilities and look clumsier than usual when returning to work after sick leave.
Therefore, it is essential that this employee, accompanied by their manager or a colleague, has a minimum amount of time to evaluate the current state of their abilities, in case it is necessary to take any training measures aimed at upskilling and reskilling.
3. Fear of having their reputation undermined within the company
When returning to work after sick leave, especially if it is a prolonged absence due to a mental health problem, the employee is likely to be afraid of being less valued by their colleagues and superiors or of being fired when they return to work.
The employee may fear being perceived as “weak” (with little ability to adapt to the demands of their position), as someone mentally unstable and not to be relied upon for responsibilities. Or as someone who is selfishly taking advantage of their sick leave to not work, making some kind of profit from it at the company’s expense.
The corporate culture must convey the idea that the company values the psychological well-being of its employees and is here to help them take care of it, even if it requires them to take time off work to recover.
In this way, employees should know that taking a leave of absence is not considered wrong by the company because there is a relationship of trust with the employees. We understand that if you do, it is because you need it to come back stronger and we will support you in the process. Therefore, it is good to get the team involved when someone is returning to work after sick leave. Just as we welcome a new colleague when they arrive, we can welcome a veteran team member back to work after sick leave.
Emotional well-being program for companies
At ifeel, we know that work should not disrupt people’s well-being. Our team of psychologists, experts in well-being at work, has created an emotional well-being program for companies that positively impacts talent retention, reduces absenteeism, and combats employee stress.
In our Resources section, you will find helpful material, such as podcasts, HR guides, or interviews with HR managers. In addition, we have a Psychosocial Risk Factors Template, which you can use to comply with the requirements of the Labor Inspection.
Thanks to our emotional well-being program, your company’s HR managers can receive personalized, data-driven advice on improving the psychological well-being of their teams. In addition, this program offers employees a 360° mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. Try our program today to see how it could help you.
We hope you found this post about returning to work after sick leave interesting. If you would like more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, request it, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.