Heading back into the workplace after an extended absence because of serious illness will mean a significant change in your daily routines, the stresses placed on your mind and body, and your energy expenditure. There’s plenty to think about, but before you begin to re-enter the world of work, consider these five crucial points for preparing yourself.
listen to your body – even if it’s not what you want to hear.
We all try the ‘power through’ technique, and pushing through fatigue is the kind of thing you might have been able to hack before you fell ill. But paying attention to your energy levels and being kind to yourself is critical for everyone, not just those who have been away from work because of an illness. If you feel signs of weariness, slow down and consider amending your schedule and workload.
what sort of medication are you taking?
Are you still taking medication, and if so, is it the kind that you can practically manage in the workplace? If the answer is yes, will you definitely feel comfortable taking it there? It’s important that you don’t hurry yourself and end up compromising your confidence as a result.
how strong is your mental and emotional resilience?
Are you at a point where you can manage the frustration that will inevitably arise? It takes impressive mental and emotional determination to accommodate possible set-backs – your work may go more slowly than predicted, or your colleagues, employees and clients might not behave as expected. That won’t necessarily be a bad thing, but developing the psychological strength to absorb the frustrations and surprises without letting them knock you off course is an important part of returning to work when you’ve been unwell for a long time.
are you taking your doctors seriously?
Be sensitive to your instincts, but make sure you consider your doctors’ opinions properly. They’ll be able to anticipate many of the bumps in the road that you might not predict yourself. It’s also useful to remember that their emphasis will be on caution, so mitigate any unnecessarily restrictive recommendations from your physicians by explaining carefully what your duties will be. If you’ve had a physical injury, but you’ll be taking a lift to an office where you’ll be sitting down for most of the day, for example, perhaps you’ll be able to go back to work sooner than you think.
have you done some behind-the-scenes preparation?
It’s possible that your illness might have compromised your confidence. If the prospect of returning to your role makes you feel doubtful about your abilities, have a go at the kind of tasks or activities that you enjoyed tackling before your sickness and remind yourself of your skills and accomplishments. You may not be able to do everything you could do before, but there will be plenty of challenges you’ll deal with brilliantly – that will help you restore confidence in your competence as you prepare to return to the work place. It’s also a good idea to practice memory techniques to warm the brain up after your break from work, preparing it for the demands that are likely to be made once you’re back in employment. Remembering lists, playing with association techniques, doing sudokus or other puzzles and using memory games on phone apps and computers can help bring back any mental agility you might have lost in your absence.