Each year family obligations, maternity leaves, travel, school, health issues and military obligations take employees away from work for extended periods of time. Many organizations take weeks – sometimes months – preparing for these absences, but few dedicate half as much energy into helping employees transition back into work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, absences cost organizations a total of $100 billion a year, making it imperative that returning employees are effectively reintegrated into the culture. Improving how your organization engages returning employees is as easy as remembering the acronym W.E.L.C.O.M.E. 

7 Ways to Ease the Transition Back to Work

Each year family obligations, maternity leaves, travel, school, health issues and military obligations take employees away from work for extended periods of time. Many organizations take weeks – sometimes months – preparing for these absences, but few dedicate half as much energy into helping employees transition back into work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, absences cost organizations a total of $100 billion a year, making it imperative that returning employees are effectively reintegrated into the culture. Improving how your organization engages returning employees is as easy as remembering the acronym W.E.L.C.O.M.E.

W – When Possible, Stay in Touch
Help an employee on leave stay connected to the organization by sending them key pieces of news and information. Forwarding company newsletters and important emails will help keep the employee engaged during their absence and improve the transition back to work. Be sure to communicate that while you are eager to keep them up-to-date, their first priority should be to focus on their leave activities.

E – Ease into a Normal Schedule
Ease the employee back into their work routine by allowing them to work a half week the first week or part-time for a few weeks. These modified hours will enable the employee to gradually get back into the swing of things.

L – Let Them Know They Were Missed
A returning employee likes to know that they’ve been missed. Welcome them back by sending an email to the department, buying treats, taking them out to lunch or doing anything else to make their first day special. Help offset feelings of doubt by telling the employee you value their decision to return.

C – Consider Changes
A lot can change in a few weeks or months. Brief the returning employee on any changes made during their absence, including staffing changes, new technology and updated processes. An awareness of these changes will help them feel up-to-date on the business’ happenings.

O – Offer Work…Gradually
Once the employee starts to feel grounded at work again, gradually transition work and projects back to them. Be sure to provide background information on new assignments, including any developments that may have happened while they were out on leave.

M – Make Use of EAP resources
Remind the employee of internal resources, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) or other services, available to help them navigate this transition. With online resources and trained counselors, EAPs can help returning employees work through any struggles they may encounter while making the transition back to work. EAPs can often provide advice for managers working with a returning employee.

E – Establish Regular Check-Ins
During the first few weeks after their return, set up informal meetings to discuss how the re-entry process is going. Ask what the employee needs to help them with the transition, offer positive reinforcement, and give them a chance to discuss any frustrations or questions they may have.

“Assisting employees as they return to work after a leave of absence is an important, and often overlooked, part of employee engagement. By thoughtfully welcoming returning employees, managers can help employees feel confident about their decision to return to work. These excited employees will be more productive and valuable members of the team,” said Jen Piliero, senior product manager for Ceridian LifeWorks.

For more information:

  • Read Ceridian LifeWorks article Managing an Employee’s Successful Return to Work Following a Leave (To access this article use the username: lifeworksnew and the password: demo)
  • View Ceridian’s I am LifeWorks video
  • Learn about Ceridian LifeWorks