When you’ve been out of work after recovering from an injury that occurred at work and you have a dispute or ongoing concerns with management, it’s likely that the thought of heading back is making you feel somewhat anxious. Regardless of the concerns or issues, it’s easy to feel put off and uneasy about how you walk back in. If the situation was made more complicated by lack of communication or performance issues and especially recent warnings or complaints against you it can be even harder to face.
So, what are the keys to being able to return to the workplace without this anxiety? How can you be best prepared to move forward?
Set it Up
Do your best to demystify your return to work for yourself. Prior to your return, make sure you have provided your employer with all the relevant reports, documents and information that you are required to provide. Don’t assume that the work cover claims agent has done this.
You need to know what your first day back is going to look like and feel like for you. It is also best to reconnect with your supervisor, line manager or HR Manager before you turn up. As part of that re-connection, it’s important to find out where everything is at and how they see your first day panning out. That will give you the opportunity to discuss with them what you would and would not like announced or communicated with your team or other staff about your injury and return. You can also ask about how and when any other performance related or internal conflict issues might be dealt with upon your return.
It’s important that clear communication continues to be prioritised when return to work. Touch base with your managers and make sure they know how you are feeling and that you like your job and are happy to be back. This is even the case if you feel a bit let down because you have not heard from them while you have been recovering from your workplace injury. Start out how you’d like to continue in every way possible. Setting communication points in time with the managers you have confidence in will ensure you have the chance to review your recovery and progress and put in place a strategy to deal with any other outstanding issues.
You may need to revisit the terms of you returning back to work that were agreed upon previously and you can request to discuss these at the progress meetings or catch ups to keep things as you expect and ensuring everything that was agreed upon actually is in place.
If the work situation has become strained, it’s important to set clear boundaries for your return. If the injury was made worse because of verbal or psychological issues with other people in the team or staff or management, then it’s important to set clear boundaries for dealing with that contact, keeping conversation strictly about the topic on point and work related until it can be addressed in an appropriate way. Remember, your attitude towards setting boundaries and getting the right communication in place, will play a big part in ensuring this smooth transition back to work. If management can see that you genuinely want to be back at work, that you have a great attitude, and that you really want to do it right, they will be more inclined to make time for you and ensure boundaries are set and maintained and conflict resolved.
It’s important for both you and your management team to work together as one to find out where things went wrong previously, so that lines can be drawn to make sure the same mistakes do not happen again in the future for you or anyone else.
You may have had your return to work resolved through mediation, or it may have not needed to go that far. However, keep in mind that there are ways to resolve ongoing concerns and disputes when they arise, even after your return to work. Have confidence knowing it doesn’t have to be you against them. Mediation is an ongoing tool that can assist in providing the opportunity to discuss all your concerns as you move long term through your challenges and the outworking’s of a workplace injury and other issues affecting your ability to return to work comfortably, confidently and harmoniously.
While it can be hard to go back to work after an injury, you always have options. Be honest about the situation you find yourself in at work, initiate communication yourself and be resolution focused over blame and fault finding with your leadership team or employer, and your return to work experience, will be smoother and easier.