Top 10 tips for managers supporting someone returning to work after a period of mental ill health

It can be challenging to know how to support your employees after they have been away from work for a period of time due to mental ill health. You want to create a supportive workplace, but you're not sure you're doing it right.

This guide will help you identify the steps you need to take to create a supportive workplace. And by following these steps, you can ensure that your employees feel supported and valued upon their return.

What measures can organisations put in place to support employees returning to work after a period of mental health issues?

Supporting an employee returning to work after a period of absence due to poor mental health requires sensitivity, understanding, and proactive engagement. Here are ten tips for managers to help facilitate a smooth transition:

Prioritise open communication

Maintain an open-door policy and encourage your employee to share their concerns, needs, and expectations. Create a safe space for open dialogue about their mental health and work-related challenges.

Show empathy and understanding

Recognise that mental health issues can be complex and impact individuals differently. Show compassion, actively listen, and validate their experiences without judgment or prejudice.

Offer a phased return

Consider implementing a phased return-to-work plan, gradually increasing work hours or responsibilities. This approach allows the employee to adjust and regain confidence at a manageable pace.

Collaborate on a return-to-work plan

Involve the employee in the process of developing their return-to-work plan. Together, identify any necessary accommodations, modifications, or additional support they may require to thrive in their role.

Provide training and resources

Offer relevant training programs or resources on mental health awareness, stress management, and maintaining work-life balance. Equip your team with the knowledge and skills to create a supportive work environment.

Be flexible and accommodating

Understand that the employee may need flexible working arrangements or reasonable adjustments to perform their duties effectively. Explore options such as flexible schedules, remote work, or temporary changes to workload or responsibilities.

Foster a supportive work culture

Create a culture that values well-being and mental health. Encourage work-life balance, promote self-care practices, and discourage stigmatisation or discrimination related to mental health.

Assign a mentor or buddy

Pair the returning employee with a trusted colleague who can act as a mentor or buddy. This person can provide guidance, support, and a friendly ear throughout the reintegration process.

Monitor workload and stress levels

Keep a close eye on the employee's workload and stress levels. Ensure that their responsibilities are manageable and realistic, making adjustments if necessary. Regularly check in to assess their well-being and provide the necessary support.

Offer ongoing support

Remember that supporting an employee's mental health is an ongoing process. Continue to provide encouragement, regular check-ins, and opportunities for open communication. Monitor their progress and make adjustments as needed.

Remember, each individual's experience and needs may vary, so tailor your approach to meet the employee's specific circumstances. Creating a culture of compassion, flexibility, and support will help the returning employee feel valued and empowered to thrive in the workplace.

We hope you have found this article helpful. If you still have questions, we'd love to invite you to our free virtual drop-in session for managers, where we will be sharing information about responsibilities and objectives around workplace mental health issues and hosting a Q&A so you can get your questions answered. Register your interest by sending us a quick email here.

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