How to ensure your employees have a smooth transition back to work

Posted by James Arquette on 24/11/16 16:22

President Obama has pledged to work with Donald Trump’s team to help them adapt to life in the White House, fast. And when your employees return to work after a period of short or long term absence, you have a responsibility to make the path as smooth as possible for them.

Fail to do so and:

  • There’s an increased potential for future absence with all its associated costs.
  • The employee is far more likely to lose morale and feel apathetic about their job.
  • They’ll be less productive in their role, and less invested in your business

Smooth the path with Return to Work (RTW) interviews

It isn’t rocket science, but when it comes to staff changes – presidential or otherwise – the key is in the preparation. So whatever the reason for or the duration of the absence, you need to make sure you, and the employee’s line manager, take the time to understand it.

If you want your employee’s return to work to be seamless, the single most important step you can take is to ensure that their line manager carries out a prompt RTW interview:

  • It’s the best way to welcome your employee back to work.
  • You’ll make sure they’re fit to be there.
  • It will help you identify any underlying issues that could have an impact on their absence in the future.

RTW interviews are most effective when they’re completed as soon as the employee returns to work. While shift patterns come into play here, setting guidelines for the completion of the interview is an important step in recognising their importance in empowering and motivating your returning employee.

Understand the root cause of absence

Many illnesses manifest themselves as physical health problems, when they’re actually mental challenges, such as those resulting from bullying.

But when trying to discover the true reason for absence, it’s important to remember that the employee may feel anxious or embarrassed about the reason for it. So it often takes tact, sensitivity and time to get to the bottom of the matter.

  • Ensure that line managers take the time to understand why the employee was absent.
  • Investigate whether there’s anything that you can do as an organisation to support that individual.

The support you offer could be something simple. For example, if your employee has had a bad back and has never found their office chair comfortable, the solution is straightforward… Invest in a high quality chair and ensure that your employee is using it correctly!

However, it could take time for the employee to get back up to speed. Putting measures in place to support them will take the pressure off, and help them get back to working at full capacity faster.

Spread the word about support services

For example, if you offer health and wellbeing classes, counselling services or gym membership as part of your benefits, put steps in place to ensure line managers are aware of them.

That way, when they’re conducting RTW interviews, they’ll be able to make relevant suggestions or recommendations to the returning employee:

  • With the right understanding and guidance, you’ll make it far easier for your employee to get back into working life.
  • They’ll feel that you’re genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, which in turn will make them more invested in your business.

A good rule is to treat your employee as you’d wish to be treated given the circumstances of the absence – and adjust your approach accordingly.

This isn’t just in the best interests of your returning employee. Evidence shows that two badly-managed absences due to mental health will result in that employee leaving before the third absence. And this will increase your costs and impact your business as you recruit.

So, as you manage the return to work process following absence, use President Obama as your role model and make the transition as smooth as possible.

Learn more about RTW best practice in our blog post.

Topics: Blogs