Effectively supporting an employee's return to work following a period of disability is an important function of a management role. When an employee is returning to work after a long or short-term disability, they can feel nervous, vulnerable or full of self-doubt about their role at work, their ability to perform their role effectively and how their co-workers will respond.
In this series of videos below, John is faced with a decision. He will be given two options, depending on which one he chooses, his day will take a turn.
Watch the videos in sequence. Some of the videos have questions to answer after watching them. Where there are videos for two possibilities, watch both, and then answer the questions after watching the second one. Your answers to questions may trigger brief additional videos.
Since Samantha has just returned to work from leave, John has to make a return-to-work plan for her.
Should John explain it's about him being a better manager and her getting a bit more comfort?
Or should he explain that it's not about present or past issues but about preventing future issues?
Should John ask Samantha to explain what reducing stressors means to her?
Or should he give her the option to extend her leave?
Should John suggest adjusting Samantha's job so it can work better for her?
Or should he ask how often the stressors occur and how she's coping?
Should John talk about taking Carol's reaction into account?
Or should John suggest finding some trade-offs between Samantha and Carol?
See how John's conversation with Samantha ends up. What should he have done differently?
This website is brought to you by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
The issue: Addressing medical needs.
This might take some pressure off Samantha by suggesting you aren't doing this for her, but it's also not giving her the whole truth and may come off as flippant or insincere.
Watch the video below to see why.
The issue: Exploring a solution strategy.
Managers could feel they have to walk on eggshells around the person when they are not sure what he or she defines as stressful. Establishing the actual triggers of stress for each individual clarifies and narrows the action required.
Just like someone with a physical injury may require a gradual use of a damaged limb, someone with a mental health issue may require gradual exposure to stressors to build up their confidence and their resilience. Staying home longer may only delay or impede this necessary step.
The issue: Defining specific challenges for accommodation.
Whenever possible, avoid just shooting down an idea or saying no. When you feel the idea could be problematic, ask the employee how it could work without causing the problem you've anticipated.
Get to the specifics about how things can improve.
The issue: Gradual re-integration to the job.
As you and an employee are discussing topics of a personal or sensitive nature, including a return to work plan, it is important to consider the privacy implications of having those discussions in a public place. Whenever possible, these discussions should take place in a private area. In the scenario you viewed, John met Sam in a café. In some cases employees request that the discussions take place away from the work site because they do not feel comfortable in the office.
This is very dependent on the type of relationship you have with your employee.
If there are no safety issues, it is usually less overwhelming for the employee when the meeting is just you and them.
If the employee specifically requests a location and the manager is comfortable with it, this may not be a problem, but it should never be the suggestion of the manager.