Empathy In Action: Navigating Employee Return From Mental Health Leave

July 7, 2023by Carissa Harrison in Workplace Wellbeing

In today's fast-paced and demanding work environment, the movement for mental health support at work is gaining increased recogntion. When a colleague returns to the workplace after taking a mental health leave, it is crucial to foster a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages their reintegration and honours their journey. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while preparing to welcome back and support someone who has returned from a mental health leave:

Communication is key:

Effective communication plays a fundamental role in creating a supportive atmosphere. Before the individual's return, it's important to maintain open lines of communication. Reach out to them before their start date to express your support and ensure they feel welcomed back. Show genuine concern by asking how they're feeling and if they have any specific needs or preferences during their transition.

Confidentiality and privacy:
Respecting the individual's privacy and confidentiality is crucial. Mental health is a sensitive matter, and it's important not to disclose or discuss the details of their leave without their explicit consent. Maintain confidentiality to create a safe space for them to open up if they choose to.

Empathy and non-judgemental attitude:

One of the most impactful ways to support a colleague's return is by cultivating empathy and adopting a non-judgemental attitude. Mental health struggles are often misunderstood, so approach their return with an open mind and a willingness to listen. Avoid making assumptions or stigmatizing comments. Be patient, understanding, and non-judgemental, allowing them to feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.

Creating a welcoming environment:

Returning to work can be anxiety-inducing, so creating a warm and welcoming environment is essential. Consider their workspace and possibly add a small gesture, such as flowers or a candle (also be mindful some people may not want this as it creates unwanted attention). These thoughtful gestures show that their absence was noticed and that they are valued members of the team.

Flexible work arrangements:

Flexibility is a key element in supporting someone's mental health journey. Collaborate with the individual to explore any necessary adjustments to their workload, schedule, or work environment. This may include gradually easing back into their responsibilities or providing additional resources to help manage their workload effectively.

Employee assistance programs (EAP's) and resources:

Make sure your workplace has accessible resources available to support mental health. Highlight the availability of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counseling services, or wellness initiatives. This will demonstrate the company's commitment to employee well-being and ensure the returning colleague has the necessary support at their disposal.

Ongoing support and check-ins:

Welcoming someone back from a mental health leave is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Continue to check in on their well-being periodically, demonstrating that you genuinely care about their progress. Encourage open communication and assure them that support is available when they need it.

To learn more about accommodating employees returning from mental health leave, join us for Manager Mental Health Training.


Employee Engagement Calendar - August 2023


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