As a manager of people you will likely be managing sickness absence. Here are 5 ways to help your employees back to work earlier.

Maintain contact

Studies show that when an employee has been off work for more than 3 weeks (no matter what the condition) psychologically, it is much harder to return.  Regular contact, asking how they are, showing they are missed and updates on the workplace, really improves connection to their team and the workplace.  If the person feels their Manager or colleagues don’t care whether they are in work or not, they won’t make the effort to come back earlier.

Offer Support

When an employee has extended time off and their health is improving, or if they have planned medical treatment, it’s helpful for the employee to start to visualise how they could be supported back to work.  Why not say “When you are feeling well enough to come back we can look at ……” and suggest ways the business will look after them as they return.  This helps overcome the nervousness of returning and helps keep them engaged with their job and team.

Return to Work Interviews

These are highly effective interventions in managing sickness absence.  Return to Work interviews help to discourage non-essential sickness absence, welcome the person back into the workplace, help cover your essential duty of care and health and safety issues and updates employees on changes.  Use a standardised form to record your conversations and be clear about outcomes.

Be consistent & genuine

Be genuine and interested when you interact with employees (insincerity is easily spotted) to help ensure full co-operation.  If you have committed to certain support or actions then deliver on them.  Don’t promise the earth, just do what you say you will do.  Whilst each case is different, support the members of your team in a similar manner.

Be prepared

Don’t be afraid to research the person’s condition and what to expect.  Think about what questions to ask and record the answers.  It’s often beneficial to ask for support from your Occupational Health (OH) service, HR department or experienced colleagues.  OH is highly effective in complex cases, assessing and advising on conditions and suggesting ways to help bring employees back to work earlier.