How To Return To Work After Taking Time Off
Have you ever had to take time off of work for health reasons, or maybe family obligations? Perhaps you know somebody who has, or maybe you are managing somebody who’s going through this right now.
Well, this could happen to any one of us at any time; nobody is immune.
And the thing is, managing that kind of phased return back to work isn’t always so simple.
- You may feel that you can’t carry your own weight and that’s troubling to you.
- You may be worried that your colleagues might be judging you.
- Or maybe you’re concerned that you’re missing opportunities.
- If you’re an achiever, you’re probably feeling super frustrated that you can’t push yourself as hard as you always have, that you can’t operate at 120%, that you can’t say ‘yes’ to every project.
Well, if you’re feeling this way and managing your return back to work, it’s perfectly normal. There are lots of things you can be doing, but I want to share with you six that I think can be particularly helpful.
1. Job #1 is your health or family obligation
Understand that your job number one is to focus on your health, or your family obligation, whatever that is. Only you can make that a priority, only you can make that your focus.
Remember that what’s really important at this stage is to just make a sustainable recovery if you’re returning from an illness, or to set up a sustainable situation at home.
2. Set up the deal with your boss
You want to be setting up your deal with your boss upfront. What I mean by that is you want to have a conversation with your boss and talk about how you want to phase back in. They’re going to be guided by what you want and what you’re capable of, so you can take some leadership in this regard.
At the same time, you want to make sure you agree some check-in points. Arrange to have meetings or conversations that happen on a regular basis. That makes it normal to talk to your boss about how you’re feeling and where things stand, whether that’s at the end of every week, at the end of every month, and so forth.
3. Figure out what you want to communicate
Decide for yourself what the message is that you want to give to people at work. What do you want to tell your boss, what do you want to tell your colleagues, and what do you want to tell your clients?
It might be the same message for everyone. You might feel comfortable with the same level of transparency with everybody, which makes your life so much simpler because when you tell people what the facts of the situation are, they stop being so curious and can go on with their lives and go about their own business.
But if, for whatever reason, you don’t feel that way then make sure you find a small group of people that you can be totally transparent with. I’m not talking about TMI (Too Much Information) here, but just what the situation really is because you’re going to need their support. Ideally that small group would include your boss, maybe one or two very, very close colleagues, and/or your friends and family.
Then, decide what you’re comfortable with saying to everybody else. But don’t leave them wondering and guessing because then that’s when things get really messy.
4. Be compassionate with yourself
Cut yourself some slack. Be realistic about what you actually can do.
In my own case, I fractured a vertebra in a car accident and had to lie in bed for three months. When I started back to work, I could only spend an hour sitting up at first, then an hour and a half, and then two hours.
So just be realistic about what it is you can do and don’t strain beyond that. And make sure you factor in commuting time too into how much time and energy you have!
5. Don’t worry about what others are thinking
I know, that’s really, really hard. But that goes back to item number one which is: your number one job is to focus on getting better or setting up the situation so that it’s better.
Even if people are thinking about you all the time (which, by the way, they’re not because everybody’s got their own stuff to worry about), but even if they are spending every waking moment thinking about you and your situation, then you can rest assured that the reputation you’ve always had can carry you through a long way.
We all know how hard it is to change a first impression and when that impression is already really good, then that’s going to carry you on. So don’t worry about what other people are thinking.
6. Focus on the quality, not the quantity
When you’re at work, focus on the quality of your work and not the quantity. On a practical basis, when you go into the office or wherever it is you’re doing your work, just decide: what is the one thing you’re going to focus on getting done that day, or maybe two things, or at most three things?
Once you’ve identified those one, two or three things, then you can get those done well and feel really good about yourself.
So, those are six things that you can do to ease your way back into work after a long absence. Here they are again, in brief:
- Job #1 is your health or family obligation
- Set up the deal with your boss
- Figure out what you want to communicate
- Be compassionate with yourself
- Don’t worry about what others are thinking
- Focus on the quality, not the quantity
Now, I want to ask you: What challenges have you faced in your return to work?
Scroll down and leave a comment so that we can all help out.