Returning to work after an injury

Dealing with the aftermath of a debilitating injury is not an easy task. It’s common to experience both physical and psychological consequences that can make the everyday elements of your life a challenge, not to mention the process of returning to work.

Emma Whalan, HR Manager for SEEK Learning says that these consequences can often stem from the trauma of the injury as well as the financial pressure resulting from a break from work, depending on the nature of the injury. Understandably, there may also be impacts to your personal confidence and outlook.

While times may be tough, fortunately there are positives that can arise out of these challenging situations. The fact you’re looking to return to work means you’re on the road to recovery, and are taking an important step in your life and career. Here are some tips to ensure the transition back to work is as smooth and comfortable as possible…

Spend your time off wisely

Think about how you can use your absence from work to your advantage. If you’ve suffered a serious injury and need to move into an entirely different industry, you may want to consider a new qualification to prepare you for this career change.

If you’re returning to the same job, Emma believes that it’s ideal to catch up on any changes within your industry, learn the new software your team are using, or develop your own ‘re-induction’ plan so you don’t feel behind on your return.

man walking up stairs returning to work

Manage your emotional health

It’s normal to feel a range of emotions about your return to work – you might be really excited but hesitant at the same time. Make sure you work through these emotions by seeking the help of a counsellor or trusted friend, and remember to keep your brief or extended absence from work in perspective compared to the career you have ahead of you.

Prepare answers to likely questions in advance

It can be daunting to return to work and have to deal with a myriad of questions, even though they’re likely coming from genuinely concerned colleagues who want to support you. Similarly, if you’re interviewing for a new role, you’ll need to be able to discuss your injury and period of leave.

“It’s a good idea to prepare responses that share what you are comfortable with, what your requirements are, and also what you are excited about,” Emma advises. Try to speak about your injury in a factual tone of voice and offer suggestions and solutions, as well as an overview of how you’ve been preparing for your return to work e.g. studying, working with a mentor, or conducting industry research.

Have open communication with your managers

If you’re returning to your previous workplace, your transition will be smoothed by communicating openly with your HR support and Line Manager, so that both sides understand each other’s challenges and goals.

Talk to your manager about how they can accommodate all likely scenarios, including safe transport into work, desk and office set-up, breaks in your day, working from home, and balancing work and any ongoing medical appointments if necessary.

Consider initially returning part-time

If financially viable, returning to your job part-time or seeking a new part-time role can help you build your stamina and avoid becoming overwhelmed. You might want to talk to your employer about staggering work days or adopting an earlier finish time for a period of time. It may only be for the first couple of weeks but it can go a long way to helping you readjust. Emma suggests, “if you’re starting back part-time, make sure your colleagues know your hours and who to contact when you’re not in”.

Do a practice run

In the weeks leading up to returning to work, it’s recommended that you practice your morning routine so you are already partly back in the swing of things by the time your start date rolls around.

Get in the habit of waking up at the right time, showering, dressing, getting out the door, and getting familiar with traffic and transport to make sure that you are as prepared as you can be.