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Tips to help employees return to work after illness or injury

By Fi Darby

Those who suggest that an organisation’s employees are more important than its customers could well be right. Great employees mean high productivity and happy consumers. As a good manager you work hard to show your appreciation of your staff and this includes helping them return to work after an illness or injury. 

However, no matter how long the period of absence, making a return to work can be a daunting prospect. It is important to make sure your human resources team conduct a return to work interview and set up a return to work programme but there are a few other details you should also consider. 

We have some tips that you might want to utilise to help your employees return to work after an illness or injury.

How to help employees return to work after illness or injury

  1. Keep in touch during the absence period.
  2. Offer flexible working arrangements.
  3. Make allowances for ongoing health requirements.
  4. Give opportunities to catch up with training.
  5. Give support as required.

1. Keep in touch during the absence period.

As a manager, you may feel nervous about contacting an employee whilst they are absent from work for illness or injury but the right type of contact during this time can make a return to work much easier. 

Striking the right balance between concern and information is important and you should offer your employee options as to how the contact will take place. With a little bit of sensitivity you and your employee can work together to make sure that they remain in the loop and don’t feel isolated. 

Some employees might want to take the opportunity of enforced time away from work to gain further qualifications through online training. Giving careful consideration to these requests is important. 

2. Offer flexible working arrangements.

older man working from home

A smooth return to work can often be facilitated by the offer of flexible working arrangements.

These arrangements might include reduced or flexible hours, changes to the work environment and adjustments to equipment. Whether your employees are mobile carers or office-based administrative assistants, a comfortable and safe working environment is an important element of a successful and happy return to work.

3. Make allowances for ongoing health requirements.

Many employees who return to work after an illness or injury will have some ongoing health issues and requirements.

You may need to make adjustments to ensure a safe and healthy return. These might include:
  • Giving appropriate duties (these might be significantly different to former duties)
  • Ensuring that assistance is available as required
  • Allowing time during the working day for exercise and medication
  • Allocating longer breaks and reduced work targets
As well as paying attention to physical return to work requirements, it is also important to include mental health considerations. Make sure that returning employees’ roles are clearly explained and that they know where they can go for support and advice. 

You should also safeguard the mental health of returning employees by making sure that they avoid office burnout, have the right level of work and are not working in isolated locations. 

4. Give opportunities to catch up with training.

business people taking notes during training

One way to help a returning employee get back up to speed and regain confidence in their skills is to provide opportunities for training. It is important to revisit any workplace health and safety training but an up-to-date online course in a specific subject might also be useful. Possibilities include information technology, accounting and marketing.

5. Give support as required.

One of the most important ways to ensure a smooth and happy return to work for your employees is to make sure that a network of colleague support has been put into place. This should start with the line manager but a peer buddy system can also be helpful. 

Support should be set up before an employee returns to work and continue as long as necessary in discussion with all parties concerned. The gradual rather than sudden withdrawal of this type of workplace support is recommended.

Are you looking for ways to improve your people management skills?

People management is a key factor for all business leaders and learning how to manage team effectiveness often requires training and skills, as well as experience. If you are looking for ways to improve your management of people, you will find that online courses are a great way forward.

Upskilled offers a range of online leadership and business courses as well as online courses in human resources management that cover appropriate topics including emotional intelligence, team effectiveness, workplace relationships and workforce planning. 

Online learning offers a flexible learning option that will fit easily into your work and personal time commitments and give you recognised and applicable qualifications.

Most Upskilled courses take around 12 months to complete and will significantly improve your skills and knowledge levels. With a wide range of courses, we have something for every manager. Start searching today and find out more about how online study can benefit you, your employees and your career.
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