How organisations can support people transitioning back to work

I was recently asked as to how organisations can best support people transitioning back to work. A key in helping people ease back into the work routine is flexibility.

The reasons for employee time out can be many, including – parental leave, accident or ill health, looking after family members with medical issues and or redundancy.

Organisations who provide flexibility in their support for people transitioning back to work can win, as can the employee, by making the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful transition.

Setting things right from day one is a great place to start.

For example, someone who has been off work for a while  – be it parental leave, illness or for other reasons – could be asked beforehand as to what arrangements will help them best ease back into work.

Mutual understanding and arrangements like starting off work for three days a week then building up to four then five days could be a help.

A manager I was working with had great success with a returning employee doing the above and and now she is their top performer.

Returning to work after a break is a time when people can feel vulnerable and are likely  to have lost some confidence.  The manager can help them succeed by showing empathy and support.

As a manager even if your employees circumstances are different from yours, you can demonstrate empathy by reflecting back to a time when you had to return to work or start a new job in another industry and how having the support of your manager and the orgnaisation really helped you.

A simple question like, “What can I do help you transition back with ease?” can be a good starting point.  But don’t just leave it at this.

A good approach is to set up with the employee beforehand as to the frequency and method of check-in ( via phone, email, in person) will help them settle back in. Doing this will enable you to have a finger on the pulse and do the needful so any unexpected hurdles are dealt with.

Perhaps the returning employee needs help with technology or perhaps they need to be sent on a training course to refresh their skills.

We know that people leave organisations not necessarily because of the organisation itself but because of their immediate manager.   Managers need to have the right mindset and actively promote and utilise the organisation’s  “transition friendly” initiative (if they have this)  as well as use their discretion to help the employee transitioning back with caring /welcoming initiatives like a ‘welcome back’ morning tea.

This signals to the employee amongst other things that they matter and are valued. And who doesn’t appreciate that?

Remember “One size doesn’t fit all” and flexibility is the key.

When the organisation cares about its people and their well-being and provides the necessary flexibility, the organsiastion benefits from the employees renewed energy, motivation, commitment and loyalty.

Emotional intelligence and mindfulness on the part of the manager will go a long way to make a difference between a success transition or not.

Good attention early on will yield greater dividends quicker in the form of loyalty, trust and greater employee engagement.

Warning signs that indicate that people are not coping with the new transition

Watch out for signs like low to poor performance, late delivery, abenteeism ( especially this being so soon after their returning to work), visible signs of stress in their looks and demeanour, illness or any health issues and listen to the corporate air waves – what others might be saying.

Putting some of the above strategies will ensure that the chances of a poor transition are minimised.

As per above, regular communciation and tangible support will go a long way.

EAP or some other coaching support can also be very helpful.

With some thought, care and planning, easing back into work could be a win-win outcome for both parties.

P.S. What has been your experience?

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