After an episode of mental ill-health, a return to work can be worrying. Here we consider five key actions that will help set you up for successful re-entry to the workplace.

1. Agree on a way forward with management and HR

If there were particular stressors which led to your ill health, a plan to prevent these re-occurring is a priority. Managers, alongside HR, may well be able to make reasonable adjustments to your role or re-prioritise your work tasks to keep your duties more manageable in the future.

2. Keep the communication going

Perhaps because of the perceived stigma of poor mental health, many people feel reluctant to reveal that they are struggling. As part of any return to work strategy, identifying who you can go to for support if things are beginning to get difficult again (and making sure that you do seek assistance if necessary) is essential.

3. Develop your self-care strategies

Almost inevitably, any occupation brings with it a degree of pressure and stress. Appropriate healthcare, as well as self-care, can help to minimise the effects these negatives can have. Before returning to work, make sure that you have visited your healthcare provider and explored the options available. In addition, there is a need to plan how you will prioritise self-care – the key to sustaining good mental health at work.

4. Make longer term plans

It may be the case that you feel it best to perhaps seek other employment, change your personal circumstances or commit to some other significant project in order to bring about a lasting improvement in your mental health. A strong return to work strategy may include a resolution that the current situation is not forever, along with a timetable for change.

5. Seek regular reviews at work and with your healthcare provider

Regular reviews with management, your healthcare provider and other supporters can help you and others gauge how well things are working. A periodic review allows appropriate changes to be made if necessary, reducing the risk that your mental health will decline to the point that further time off is needed.

These tips will help to ensure that, when you are ready to return to work, you do so from a position of strength, putting in place pro-active strategies to shore up your mental health for the future.

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