Imagine you have planned a temporary absence from your workplace with the full intention of coming back. This could be a maternity leave, paternity leave, health leave, or for those lucky few, a sabbatical. You decide to keep in communication with teammates while away to ensure a smooth transition for clients and workloads upon your return. You even go so far as to stay on the team’s communication channel, send the occasional text and also visit your leader to talk about ‘what’s new’. Then the day arrives for your return and you feel out of touch, out of date, and out of place.
I personally, just returned from my second maternity leave and my employer was prepared for me to come back, in fact they were so excited to have me back, that there was a list of work ready for me to do on my first day back. Without having been actual ‘working’ for the past 9 months, I wasn’t prepared for the mental fog, the changed policies and practices and let’s just sprinkle in a pandemic to really change things up!
None of us have a crystal ball, so we truly can’t predict how each person will adjust to work after a leave, but we can predict that an employee returning from a leave may need some extra support getting back into the routine.
For those who have been on leave for more than 3 months, it’s a great idea to plan out what the first few days for the employee will look like.
We recommend having the following in place for your return to work plan:
- Re-Onboarding – this is just like what you complete with a new employee however it should trigger an important review of what has changed in the past 90/180/365 days in terms of systems, processes, and practices as a refresher. For example, review the employee handbook and then meet with each of your team members to hear about what has changed.
- Flexible scheduling – if this is an option at your organization, consider offering adjusted start times or shorter days at the start to get that employee up to speed and ready to get back to work. This may not be forever, but it is a good way to get back into work mode and assist in figuring out the work/life juggle.
- Warm re-welcoming – We think that offering a new employee some swag or gift is a great experience, so what about a returning employee? It can be something as simple as a new frame for their desk.
- Buddy Program – connect the returning team member with a new buddy in a similar role. Everyone likes to know that they aren’t alone in their experience, and it may feel good to have an ally who has just went through a similar situation.
Give these ideas a try when you are planning on re-welcoming an employee back to their post. We think both the employer and the employee will benefit from planning a smooth transition for everyone back to work.
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