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How employers can make a difference


Burnout is a severe challenge that affects many employees, leading to significant absenteeism and a decrease in workplace productivity. In Belgium, for instance, a staggering 66.4% of those on disability for psychological reasons cite depression or burnout as the cause. This issue is mirrored across OECD countries, where nearly half of the workers with mental health issues have missed work in the past year.

Gentle reintegration: Key to long-term success

Studies show that those who come back from mental health leaves have a higher chance of relapsing, especially in the first year. 90% of relapses happen in the first three years, which highlights the importance of a well-planned reintegration approach. Employers are required to establish a nurturing atmosphere that attends to these workers’ immediate needs as well as any enduring difficulties they might encounter.

The role of colleagues in reintegration

The success of reintegration is not just a matter of interaction between the employer and the returning employee; it critically involves their colleagues. It’s crucial for teammates to provide support, but this can be complicated. For example, returning employees might work part-time or have adjusted duties, which could be perceived as unfair privileges by their colleagues. Therefore, it’s vital to foster open communication across the team about the reintegration process and the reasons behind any special arrangements, always respecting the employee’s medical privacy.

Managing expectations and communication

Misunderstandings about what to expect from the returning employee can lead to workplace friction. Clear communication about the employee’s capabilities and limitations, as well as the expected timeline for their full reintegration, is crucial. It is also wise to have their direct supervisor manage their work assignments initially, rather than making them available for tasks from multiple team members.

Creating a supportive workplace culture

A comprehensive and effective reintegration policy includes several components:

  • Supportive culture: Develop a workplace culture that values mental health and recognizes the importance of supporting returning colleagues.
  • Training: Equip managers and team members with the skills to recognize signs of mental health issues, provide appropriate support, and foster an inclusive environment.
  • Open communication: Maintain transparency to build trust and reduce stigma. Regular meetings and feedback sessions can help address any issues during reintegration.
  • Flexible policies: Implement flexible working hours and adjust workloads to accommodate the needs of returning employees.
  • Peer support: Leverage insights and emotional support from colleagues who have experienced similar challenges.

The strategic importance of sustainable reintegration

In addition to being a humanitarian strategy, sustainable reintegration is a tactical requirement for improving staff retention and fortifying organizational resilience. By focusing on supportive dynamics among coworkers and paying attention to the particular issues associated with reintegration, organizations can cultivate a more positive work environment, lower employee turnover, and guarantee a loyal staff.

Conclusion

The entire organization bears responsibility for the successful reintegration of the returning individual as well as their management. Establishing a workplace culture that is compassionate, encouraging, and flexible is crucial to assisting staff members in not only going back to work but also thriving in their positions.