How to Transition Back Into the Workplace After a Long Absence

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A return to work can be daunting.
A return to work can be daunting. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you’re returning to your job after a lengthy absence, whether it be sick leave, maternity leave or a sabbatical, you may be understandably nervous about what lies ahead. Once you’re out of those work routines, getting back up to speed can be difficult. You may also find that people and perhaps even technology have changed. There are several things you can do to ease your transition back to the workplace.

Communicate with your boss. This is the key to a smooth transition back. If possible, meet with her in person as you’re planning your return. Clarify your exact role and what will be expected of you when you are back in the workplace, and talk about your concerns. You may find your boss has some helpful hints for you, and the discussion will allow her to understand how she can ease the way for you.

Talk to your human resources department about any special services your company can offer as you transition back. Many larger companies will offer help, especially if you are a new parent returning. You may be able to take advantage of on-site child care, or lactation services.

Set a firm date for your return several weeks in advance so that you can get your plans set, especially if you have extra responsibilities at home that you must juggle.

Discuss whether you can start back on a flexible or part-time schedule, at least for the first few weeks. This will allow you to ease back into a working rhythm. If this is not possible, arrange for your start date to be late in the week, perhaps on a Thursday, so that you have a short first week.

Begin some work from home. This can be a low-impact way to get back up to speed and can help you to organize your workload before your first day in the office.

Arrange for refresher training if you feel your skills have lapsed, or if new skills will be expected of you.

Seek help with other aspects of your life as you begin to focus on work again. Maybe this will be getting a cleaning service at home, or letting go of some volunteer work you used to have time to do. Prioritize so that your return to work can be successful.

Set a trial period for yourself and review your progress. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly at first, but agree to sit down with your boss or another mentor after three months back and see how you think you are doing: where you’ve made good strides and where you need to focus on improving your performance.

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