How to Return to Work Safely After an Injury

Irrespective of your job and the role you perform returning to work after an injury can be a daunting prospect. You may be concerned over the length of time you have had away from your colleagues, job role, and practices or you may even still be suffering from the mental or physical side effects of your injury. Feeling anxious about returning to work is commonplace. In order to to make the process a little easier and help make the experience as smooth and stress-free as possible here are some practical steps and guidance you can follow. 

Get medical approval

Wanting to return to work and feeling ready to work is not the same as being medically fit and ready to. The first step to returning to the workplace after an injury is to be confident that medical professionals are happy in your physical or mental ability to cope with the increased workload and demands on your body. Returning to work prematurely could result in further injury or in you needing further time off, which could then adversely affect your mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Once back at work be sure that you listen to your body, don’t overdo it, or do too much too soon. 

Are there any adaptations that can be made?

You may be ready to return to work in some capacity but perhaps not ready to jump back in where you left off. If this is the case consider if there are any workplace accommodations or adaptations that can be made to facilitate your return to work. It may be that your hours are adjusted slightly or you take on a slightly different role. Alternatively, there may be steps your employer could take such as investing in ergonomic office equipment or an exoskeleton suit for lifting, whatever suits your needs and job role. There is no harm in exploring all of the options available to you and your employer, you may even unearth practices that benefit others in the long run.

Keep the lines of communication open. 

One of the most important things you can do is to maintain a good level of communication and an open and honest dialogue with your employer or direct manager. Keeping them informed and up to date with your progress and how you are finding things will enable them to give you the support you need. It will also ensure your mental and physical condition is protected. However, if you keep them in the dark about any problems or difficulties you may be experiencing they will be unable to help you and you could find yourself going through difficulties that result in a successful return to work. 

Speak to colleagues

Another great way to make the returning to work process that bit easier and slightly less stressful is to keep in touch with colleagues during your absence. Setting aside some time to schedule a phone call, email conversation, or in-person catch-up can help to ensure you still feel part of the workforce and are kept appraised of any developments or changes. Staying up to date with any workplace news will help make your return easier as there shouldn’t be any unforeseen changes to navigate on your return.  

Ask for help where you need it

There is no shame in needing a little help. You have been off work for a reason and if the after-effects of that reason are lingering and causing you trouble when back at work the very best thing you can do is speak out about it. Co-workers and management are all there to aid your return and make it as seamless as possible so raise your hand and seek support when you need it. You will be glad you did. 

Look after yourself 

Working can be stressful with or without an injury and when it comes to balancing work-life stress with your home life stress one of the best measures you take is to look after yourself. This is never more applicable than when returning to work after an injury. Whatever it is you do to relax, release endorphins or generally de-stress and feel better about yourself, make time for it. If your injury prevents you from doing the type of recreational activity you might choose in the first instance consider trying something new. Try something that can complement your injury and your wellbeing, perhaps yoga or swimming for example. Finally, don’t forget the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, gentle exercise, and good nutrition to keep your mental and physical health and wellbeing intact. 

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