Reintegration of an Employee After Burnout: The reintegration process requires both parties to be in agreement with the task at hand. A successful return to work will take effort from the employee and you as the manager. The length of burnout will vary from each individual. On average, after 55 to 100 days, people with burnout will slowly pick up the threads again.
As a manager can you stimulate the reintegration process? In this article, we cover a step-by-step plan on what you can do as a manager for a smooth and successful return of the employee.
The first step is always communication. The majority of managers stay in touch during the employee’s absence via e-mail or telephone. When the employee is willing, it is important to schedule a meeting. During the initial meeting the following points should be discussed:
Benefit from Milltains’ Training for giving communication and feedback
The Current State of Affairs
The most important, primary question should be “How are you at the moment?”. In order to understand what you can expect from the employee, it is best not to ignore this. People who suffer or have suffered a burnout often retain long-term complaints. Fatigue, irritability and concentration problems can persist for a long time. It is important for both you, your supervisor, as well as for the employee that all parties know where they stand. This allows to truly highlight any underlying worries, problems or anxiety in relation to their work.
Do you want to reduce sickness abscence in your company?
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Find the Cause of Burnout
Secondly, it is important to address the cause. Start a conversation about the reason for the burnout. Was it, specifically, performance pressure or demanding working hours. You obviously want to prevent your employee from failing in the future. By knowing what the cause was, you can devise how you can prevent burnout from happening in the future.
Take a look at Addressing an employee (for work stress) How do you do that?
What Could Help From You as a Manager
Now it is important to ask what you can do as a manager. Occasionally contacting the employee to inquire how things are is routine practice but this may feel somewhat intrusive for the employee and could thus offset the reintegration.
At the end of the initial conversation, you can talk about the possibilities of returning. However ask the question “when do you want to start again”, discuss if there are other work options, such as working from home that could benefit the employee.
This first conversation after the absence is fundamental. Plan time for this rather than assume fifteen minutes on a busy day will suffice, preferably make sure you are really available and can listen intently. Be sure notes are taken during this conversation.
Consult With a Company Doctor or Coach
Upon completion of the initial meeting, it is important to obtain specialist advice. Consult a physician, psychologist or coach of the employee. They can advise you as to the physical and mental status as well as the general state of the employee. Someone who has had a burnout can, in fact, feel well, while this may not be the case. In general, people with burnout desire to recover quickly and in some cases too rapidly that they are not 100% fully recovered.
The company doctor should start a project with the employee. This doctor can state if the employee is or is not fit for work. Converse with the doctor to learn what was the cause behind the burnout. For example, the doctor will inform you about work pressure, stress and other issues that can contribute to burnout.
The First Step in the Reintegration
Will your employee come back to work?
It is important to start small. Someone who has had to deal with a burnout should not be thrown in at the deep end. If they start too soon, it is likely that the employee will soon be completely exhausted. It is, in fact, a matter of patience and taking small steps. To begin with, 2 hours per week is not unusual. You can use this as a foundation to gradually build on until the employee works at a peak level.
During the first interview, most employees express how they would like to begin working again. Often suggesting working mornings only or part-time as opposed to full-time. As a manager, apply limits, do not allow the employee to rush back to work immediately. Is there work that can be done at home? If so, suggest working from home.
You can easily build up this process slowly in consultation with the employee and company doctor.
A reintegration scheme can be found in our toolkit
Continue to Communicate With the Employee
It is important to have regular contact, although it is not necessary to ask every day how things are, this could appear patronizing, but occasional contact is polite, demonstrates a degree of concern and interest. Remember to tactfully schedule discussions to talk about how to increase the working hours or any help your employee may need from you.
As a manager, it is not only your job to keep your employees at work, but also to ensure that they can stay at work. Do you observe that your employee is having a hard time? Difficulty concentrating or looking very tired? If so send your employee home a little earlier. It is these small things that can make the process much more prosperous in the long run.
What are the signs of an employee heading for burnout? Do your employees know the symptoms to look out for? Find out here.
What You Ought to do to Reintegrate an Employee
What things make the reintegration process a success?
Here are all the tips for you as a manager:
- An open view. Colleagues or managers often have trouble understanding the problems of someone with a burnout. Thoughts such as: “But it is not stressful at all?” Or “I work much harder and do not suffer from…” can dominate their mindset. Not everyone is the same. Have an open view of things, try not to condemn the employee. An open view of the business ensures the best reintegration process.
- For most people talking about their feelings is difficult. The fact that someone experiences stress does not tell you what this actually does to him or her. To know what you can do as a manager, it is important to know the cause. Inquiring is the best way to reveal the cause.
- Take your time. Burnout is not the same as flu that you overcome in time. When someone with burnout is deemed fit for work by the company doctor it does not mean that he or she is 100% completely recovered. Do not expect that this full recovery will happen within a few weeks. The better the reintegration process goes, the greater the chance of full recovery.
- Continue to communicate. Perhaps the most important point is to keep communicating. Always show interest towards your employee and ask if there is something they need from you. The reintegration process is a two-way road.
Now how to act when an employee suffers burnout – Colleague with burnout, here is how you can help.
Delay or Setbacks During Reintegration of a Sick Employee
Prevent your employee from having reoccurring absence after a few weeks due to (emotional) overload caused by work, Read the following to find out what to avoid during the reintegration process.
- Pitfalls. During the first interview, you should have discussed the points that led to the burnout. Did the employee receive too much work at home or did the continuous flow of e-mails prove to be stressful? Make sure you know what the pitfalls are and avoid them. Consider allowing your employee to log out of the work email after working hours.
- Patronize. No matter how sincere your concerns are, too much attention can also appear patronizing. This form of attention can also give negative pressure. It is right to ask for news from your employee, but do not just focus on the burnout. Finding a healthy balance between genuine interest and concern can be challenging.
- Too fast. Absence of an employee can result in a pile-up of overdue work. Do not allow the employee to run before they can walk, give it time. As much as you and likely the employee also would like to develop and progress, the employee’s state should determine the pace.
A useful article to read Employee Can’t Return After Burnout? Read These Tips to Avoid Sickness
If the Reintegration Stagnates
As a manager, employees with burnout can sometimes have their hands in their hair. It sometimes feels like walking on eggshells when you also have to meet deadlines yourself. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Such as, hiring an extra worker who can help with the employee’s tasks with a burnout, ask for extra help from your employees in this situation.
When someone on your work floor has to deal with burnout, it is also important to review your strategies. If the work pressure is too high for one person, this can be a sign that you are expecting too much or putting too much pressure on all your employees. Changing your approach could reduce the number of employees suffering from burnout in the future. Hire more people to ease the workload and make work expectations negotiable on the work floor.
Do You Want to Reduce Sickness Absence in Your Company?
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Who are we?
Milltain supports, with a team of experienced trainers, organizations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. Our training courses are aimed at managers within companies. A burnout quickly costs the organization € 70,000.
In addition to financial suffering, human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before you know it you are in a negative vicious circle.
Do you want an effective approach to long-term absenteeism and increasing work pleasure? (instead of extinguishing continuous fires).
We are happy to inform you about our training courses:
- Stress prevention training
- Training in absenteeism interviews
- Training TimeManagement
- Work pleasure training
- Assertiveness training in the workplace