If you have suffered a life-changing injury, the idea of returning to work might be a daunting one.
However, with the right tools and support in place, making the transition back to work after an injury can be a critical part of your recovery and wellbeing.
The impacts of a severe injury can cause a lot of people to reconsider their role, asking themselves questions like “does this make me happy?”, “Is this work meaningful?”
There are also more pressing questions like, “is this workload manageable?” or “will my employer make appropriate considerations for my changing circumstances?”.
Returning to work can positively affect how you perceive a ‘normal’ life.
It is valuable for your mental health to return to having some form of routine and to have the extra financial freedom.
There are some considerations to make your work life as comfortable as possible.
Whether you have decided to look for a brand-new role or are going back to a long-standing position, there are some considerations for making your transition back into the workspace more comfortable.
With the proper support, you can regain your work-life balance with confidence. Please take a look at our top five tips for an easier transition.
1. Research Your Rights
An invaluable aspect of easing your transition back into the workplace is knowing your rights and responsibilities as an employee and what responsibilities lie on the shoulders of your employer or third-party government organisations.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against injured, ill, or disabled employees, whether refusing to hire you, firing you, or treating you differently from other employees based on your injury, health condition, or disability.
Furthermore, if you were injured while on the job, your employer has to meet certain legal obligations that it’s important you are aware of. These legal obligations may include holding your position for twelve months, helping you transition to a modified role that you can perform, or providing reasonable adjustments and support to help you execute your role safely.
Your responsibilities may include participating in a recovery and return to work plan and making reasonable efforts to return to suitable employment.
When returning to work after an injury, getting professional advice is essential to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities.
2. Sit Down and Make a Plan
Transitioning back into a job after an injury isn’t an impulsive decision. The earlier you begin to make a plan, the easier it will be.
This plan should involve as many points of support as possible to ensure you have adequately considered all the factors that will come into play.
For example, you may work closely with your doctor, your employer, your family and any other providers who may be involved in helping you with the transition back into the workplace.
When planning, go easy on yourself and set realistic and achievable goals.
This is where your doctor can advise you on reasonable expectations, so you don’t burn out within a few weeks.
Then, by discussing these goals with your employer, you can determine what considerations need to be looked at for you to perform within your role.
First, consider your current abilities and limitations; this way, you can outline changes that may need to occur to the position and additional duties that you may be able to pick up instead.
Some of these changes may only be temporary as you recover, while others may be permanent.
3. It’s okay to reduce your workload
Do not perceive change as a negative or failure to do your job.
Instead, it proves your adaptive ability to find your feet despite your injury.
It’s expected that during your recovery, you may have to change your working arrangements and adjust your role.
Moving back into the workplace looks different for everybody.
However, some people may find that a gradual return can help them ease back into their roles more comfortably.
This could be one day a week for the foreseeable future or easing into a part-time position for a set number of weeks.
This will enable you to return to full-time hours when you are ready.
If, however, the position you were in before your injury just isn’t possible, making a career change is a wise idea.
You were likely eligible for employment support to help you find suitable employment.
By working with a professional company, you can find a role that works for you by getting help with career planning, building your skills and confidence and finding a suitable role.
4. Change your role to suit your capabilities.
When returning to the workplace, there is a responsibility on your employer to make reasonable adjustments to help you manage your health and keep safe while performing your role.
It’s natural to want to push yourself to your old capabilities.
However, your employer is required to consider your requests for reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
You can use this opportunity to speak up and make your role more manageable.
Depending on your needs, your employer may be eligible for funding via the Employment Assistance Fund, which can help to fund some of the reasonable adjustments.
Some examples of reasonable adjustments include:
- Accessibility changes in the workplace – you could move your workstation to the ground floor, for example.
- Work schedule changes – you may be able to work part-time or have flexible starting and ending times.
- Flexibility to work from home.
- Taking time off for medical appointments and treatment.
- Transferring work duties to another employee – for example you could have someone else in the office handle any heavy lifting for you.
- You may need special equipment, such as an ergonomic desk, an adapted keyboard, or a hands-free phone.
- When needed, supervision or a work buddy can assist with day-to-day tasks.
- Providing instructions written or verbally, breaking tasks down into small steps, or allowing regular breaks during the work day are some ways to make the work process more efficient.
5. Get professional help to make your return to work smooth-sailing
Although daunting, returning to work after an injury can be a really rewarding decision.
There are professional disability employment services that can help you to make the transition easier.
For those living with an injury or disability that impacts their work life, reaching out to a disability employment service means you can access employment support at no cost.
Working with a professional will allow you to create a return-to-work plan that works for you.
You can get help with special workplace equipment, find suitable employment, and access mental health services.
No matter how you have decided to manage your transition back to work, there are services to help you.