So, you took a leave of absence from work. Perhaps you stepped away to focus on your health or education, to care for a loved one, or spend time with your family. Whatever the reason – returning to work after a leave of absence can be challenging, regardless of the length of your absence or the position you are returning to. To successfully transition back, it is essential to monitor your physical, mental, emotional, and professional well-being. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed during the first few weeks.
Getting Back to Work
You may be returning to the role you had before your leave, or you may be shifting gears and taking on a new role or an augmented role depending on your company’s needs. While adjusting to a new role will be more challenging, even returning to a familiar role can be difficult after stepping away for a while. Ease into it and allow yourself time to get used to being back at work.
Also, keep in mind that you will be dealing with a sudden shift in your daily schedule. On top of that, your workplace has likely changed while you were away. You may find you have new responsibilities. Or maybe the composition or goals of your team have shifted. There may even be new faces in leadership. Even if you are going back to the same series of processes you used to handle every day, it is perfectly normal to feel a little out of your element at first. It can be overwhelming!
That is why it is essential to manage your expectations. Before stepping back into the office for the first time in perhaps months, you may have assumed that you would be good to go by the end of the first week. Yet, you found that the challenge is more difficult than you thought it would be. That is not due to any failure on your part, however. Believing that you would adjust faster than you have is a sign that you are confident in your skill sets. Cut yourself some slack and take your return to work one day at a time.
Try to keep your routine as easygoing as possible until you start to feel a little more comfortable handling the full load of your responsibilities. You may even consider starting back at reduced hours or asking to temporarily delegate some responsibilities.
Also, be honest with yourself about new boundaries you may need to set. Be open with your boss and colleagues so that they know what to expect during the initial weeks of your return. Inform those you work with of any schedule demands you need to adhere to, ask about new processes you did not cover before, and make a note of whom you can reach out to for support and guidance.
Finally, this is an ideal time to speak with your leadership team about your professional goals. Your reason for taking leave may have changed your perspective, your timeline, or your priorities, and it is important to communicate so you can work together on a development plan moving forward. Even if nothing has changed as far as your objectives, sitting down with leadership just to remind them of what you are aiming for can be vital for your career progress, and ensure you will not get overlooked for opportunities that may arise shortly after your return.
Remember that change is normal – healthy even! Embrace the new elements of your life. By taking things one step at a time and being open to new experiences, you will successfully transition back to work in no time.