Expanded leave coverage for more workers will create new challenges in leave management for most business owners and HR managers. One of the new issues you may find cropping up will be the return-to-work experience. After an employee has been away on leave, they’ll need to integrate back into the flow of daily life in the workplace.
This is sometimes a short process, although it often depends on the length and type of the leave. Parental leave and short-term sick leave can be relatively lengthy, and employees may find it difficult to integrate into the workplace again. Although bereavement leave is much shorter, employees who take time off after a death may find themselves struggling to get back into the flow.
Creating a positive return-to-work experience is one way employers can help employees after any type of leave. Here are some steps you can take to turn the experience into a more positive one.
First, ensure you’re offering support for the employee. While an employee who was on vacation or off for a few days with a cold likely won’t need much return-to-work support, someone who has been away for months or a year will need some more time to ease back into the flow of the workplace. An employee who is dealing with a monumental event in their life may need additional support.
Some employers offer very little in the way of support for employees as they return to the workplace, no matter if they’ve been away for a day or a year. After all, these people aren’t trainees and they know what they’re doing. Employers often expect them to pick up right where they left off.
Being away can disorient an employee, however, and they may feel lost. Much can change in the course of a few months or a year, so you’ll want to bring your employee back up to speed without overwhelming them.
Ease into It
You may have your returning employees start off on a part-time schedule as they ease their way back into the routine. Although this can prolong the reintegration process, it can also reduce the stress the employee may feel upon returning. This may be particularly important for people returning from short-term disability leave or new parents.
You may also consider modified duties for the first little while as the employee readjusts to their workload, schedule, and expectations. This might be particularly important for an employee who has been ill or injured. As they regain strength and health, they can take on their full duties once more.
This may also provide a chance for your employee to undergo any training they need and to work with the person who was covering their position while they were away.
Remind the employee how much they mean to your team. Encourage other members of the team to welcome them back. You may have a “welcome back” party for the employee or send around an office email, letting everyone know. If there’s a change of personnel, this might be particularly important.
The welcome wagon shouldn’t be rolled away immediately either. Be sure to demonstrate to the employee there’s a warm, welcoming environment and that they’re an important part of your team. You and the other members of your team are there to offer support and answer questions as needed.
Return-to-work experiences can be overwhelming for the employee as they readjust. They may expect to return to the office and hit the ground running. If they find they’re not working at full capacity, it can be frustrating for everyone on the team.
Be patient. Emphasize that readjusting after time away can and does often take time. Working together, however, you can create a more positive return-to-work experience.