Returning to work after sickness

Back to life, back to reality work…

There are many different reasons you might need to take time off from your job – and, whether you only were off for a few days, a few weeks, or even longer, taking the step to get back into work can sometimes seem like a pretty tough task.

To help you get back to normality as smoothly as possible, here are our top tips to help you return to work after sickness:


Keep in touch

In order to make your return to work go as smoothly as possible – you need to make sure you’re keeping in touch with your employer throughout your time off.

Not only will regular contact keep them updated on your progress and overall wellbeing, it’ll also give them a good idea of when you’re likely to come back. Then, they’ll be able to plan your return around their calendar.

This doesn’t mean you have to share personal details or call them daily – but it does mean you need to make sure they have all the information they need to ensure work is allocated sensibly and effectively when you’re back.

For example, informing them of your capabilities (e.g. whether you’ll be able to do any heavy lifting) is essential if you want to ensure you’re not taking on more than you should.


Get a fit note

Once you’ve been sick for more than seven days in a row – it’s essential to get a fit note (or statement of fitness for work) from your GP or hospital doctor.

Also referred to as medical statements or doctor’s notes, fit notes provide formal evidence of how fit you are for work – including details of how your condition affects your functionality. This allows your employer to think of ways to help you return to work.

If you’ve been off for longer than four weeks – your GP or employer can then refer you to Fit for Work – which works to help you put together a safe and effective Return to Work Plan, taking into account any support or changes you may need.


Consider reasonable adjustments

Returning to work might not always be an overnight job.

And depending on the reason you took time out, you might need to ask your employer for reasonable adjustments to help you get back into the swing of things.

This arrangement is often referred to as a ‘phased return to work’, and involves you returning to your regular duties and/or working hours gradually – usually over a period of 4 weeks or less.

Whether it’s that your workload is reduced, you work part-time hours at first, or a clear review policy is put in place to help give you some direction – temporary adjustments like these are often needed to ensure you’re not feeling too pressured when you first get back.

For example – those off for stress will benefit from a reduced level of pressure on their return, whilst someone off for a physical injury may need to avoid (or minimise) manual labour until they’re fully recovered.


Don’t overthink it

If you’ve been off work for a long time – the thought of going back can be a daunting prospect.

Not only have you had to deal with a long-term illness, you’ve also had to put the time and energy into recovering – which can often result in a blow to your confidence. In fact, you’ve been out of the loop so long that you’re beginning to wonder whether you’ve forgotten how to do your job.

But don’t panic. Returning to work after sickness will always seem scary at first – but you’ll be surprised at how things return back to routine and normality after just one day back in the workplace.

And remember: your employer should’ve kept your illness confidential, so there’s no need to worry about the whole office knowing your life story. You also have no obligation to tell anyone if they ask.

So stop overthinking every aspect of your first day back, and instead focus on taking the small steps you need to get back into work.


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Let’s face it, you’re the only one who’s going to know when you’re ready to go back to work.

And even if you do feel like you’re up to it, you might not be as able as you thought when the first week back finally comes. But this doesn’t mean you have to push yourself to do everything straight away.

Instead, speak to your manager to ask for support – whether it’s through flexible working hours or a reduction in the amount of work you’re given.

Then, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.


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