When it’s time to welcome an employee back into the office after an unexpected disabling accident, illness, or disease it can be uncomfortable for everyone without the benefit of knowing these basic tips. Preparing your staff and making a few accommodating adjustments to the work environment will go a long way toward maintaining a professional, productive, and positive work environment for everyone.
Initial Steps – The feelings of isolation are high in someone who has been a victim of a disabling experience. You as an employer can aid in the healing process by keeping your office staff connected.
- Stay in touch with your employee. Encourage co-workers to keep in contact with their fellow employee by designating a member of your staff to coordinate a volunteer team of meal delivery, rides to medical appointments, or whatever support need might arise. E-mails and phone calls should also be encouraged.
- As their employer, educate yourself on the insurance coverage your business offers. Consult with the representative of your insurance company and with the EAPs (Employee Assistants Programs) to understand the benefits that are currently available. Work as an advocate to ensure your disabled employee is getting their full benefits for as long as they can, especially the Health and Disability insurance. Create a packet of information that addresses expected questions and needs the employee may have during this difficult time. Include Web sites, contact phone numbers for support, and insurance clarification assistance.
- As they recover at home, before they return to the office, offer some sort of limited responsibility opportunity, providing a light at-home work schedule with flexible hours and low pressure terms. Have another member of your staff, with similar job responsibilities help with their work load, so when they return there is not an overwhelming pile of papers to sift through.
Transitional Steps – Assuming your employee will be returning to the office, there are some preparatory steps that you can take to make the transition easier on everyone that will be affected directly by their return.
- Based on the injury or disability, evaluate the individuals work station to determine if adjustments need to be made in respect to accommodating a wheel chair or other adaptive furnishings. Address the technology of the job to determine if adjustments need to be made, such as a phone headset or raised or lowered keyboard.
- If possible, provide a reserved parking space for your returning employee as close to the building as possible. You might need a ramp or some other assistance for ease of entry into the building.
- Brainstorm with the rest of your staff to determine other ways to help everyone feel more relaxed about the team member’s return. This could include a â€œWelcome Backâ€� banner, a potluck lunch, and a generous amount of flowers, balloons, or cards collected in the cubicle.
Final Phase Steps – Alleviate unnecessary stress by implementing these final steps when your employee returns to work.
- Designate an escort to greet the returning employee into the building. Introduce them to the provisionary changes that have been made in the building to accommodate their special needs.
- Provide a debriefing with all the new business information needed to bring the employee up to date. Things to include could be staff promotions and changes, schedule and responsibility changes, and a benefits update.
- Allow the employee the “space” they need in the first week to make personal adjustments to their schedule. Part time work might be appropriate or at least some sort of rest period during the day. Check in personally with the returning team member to offer support and evaluate how the transition is working.