Responding to co-worker questions

Quick and practical tips for responding to co-worker questions.

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When dealing with any health issues we all have different levels of comfort in sharing our personal information. Your co-workers will likely ask questions about why you were away, your current health status, how you’re coping, or why you may be doing things differently at work. 

Disclosure means sharing information about an illness or health condition. Before you make a decision, get the answers to the questions in Disclosing health conditions.

You can choose how you want to respond. Here are a few examples of possible responses:

  • Thanks very much for asking. I’m happy to be back at work and am feeling much better. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you and the team.
  • I had a few health challenges, but am now recovering. I prefer not to go into specific details.
  • Despite my recent health challenges, I’m well enough to be back at work – even if I need a few accommodations to help me transition successfully.
  • I’m grateful you filled in for me while I was away. I was working hard to get better so I could come back and do my part.
  • Thanks very much for asking (and, if you are comfortable with a broader discussion) – despite my bout with [name of illness], I understand my illness much better and am now recovering.
  • While it looks like I’m only [doing easy tasks] [working part-time], I’m well and will be transitioning back to my full workload gradually.

Write out your response. Preparing for your response can help you feel more comfortable, create understanding and improve your relationship with your co-workers.

Let your employer know what you want them to share. You may wish to have your employer speak to your co-workers about your absence and/or return to work.

Additional ideas for responding to co-worker questions and comments are available at Getting support when you return to work under the section Talking to co-workers. 

Contributors include.articlesMary Ann BayntonWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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