This article was updated on August 27, 2018.
After an illness, injury, military deployment or childbirth, employees returning from leave may need extra support to transition smoothly back into the workplace. Some employees who have taken extended leave may need continued accommodations upon return while others may just need a little extra support to quickly reintegrate into the workplace. HR leaders can do a lot to help ease those transitions and ensure that employees returning from leave are assimilated back into the workforce.
Here are three important moves HR leaders can make to help returning employees get back into the swing of things and maximize their productivity, while accommodating their unique needs.
1. Implement Employee Resource Groups
In many cases, employees returning from leave are balancing work with additional health or personal matters (such as a new baby at home, grieving the loss of a loved one or a disability as the result of injury or illness). It can be easy for these employees to feel as though they are all alone, and the only ones experiencing the new challenges they may be facing. But in a workplace of hundreds or thousands of employees, they are unlikely on their own — they may just need help finding others who are coping with similar issues.
Business Resource Groups (BRG), also known as Employee Resource Groups, are employee-led networking or support groups for employees who share similar characteristics or challenges. For instance, ADP offers a number of BRGs for employees with common backgrounds such as ADP's International Women's Inclusion Network (iWin), which has over 2,000 members globally. HR leadership should do their best to facilitate these connections, help them organize the group and promote its existence to the affected staff members.
2. Provide Reasonable Accommodations
When employees return from leave, they may need adjusted work environments to perform their job functions. In some cases, federal, state or local law may require employers to provide these types of accommodations. Often, employers can provide those adjustments at little or no cost. For instance, an employee with cancer who is undergoing chemotherapy may need a flexible work arrangement, or an employee recovering from surgery who has trouble walking may need a designated parking spot next to the building. By simply moving the employee's desk to a quieter area or providing them with flexible working arrangements, the employer may be able to reduce distraction and help them remain productive.
3. Communicate Openly
In order to provide the accommodations, support groups or other assistance that returning employees may need, HR leaders should communicate with these employees frequently. Fostering an environment in which employees feel comfortable requesting assistance will make finding a solution all that much easier. The organization should make it clear to the employee that they are available and open to help accommodate the employee when they are ready to transition back to the workplace, and HR should help connect with the employee prior to their anticipated return date to discuss any such needs. That way, the employee can begin looking forward to returning to work and their workplace and colleagues will also be ready for their return.
Making an effort to understand and meet the needs of employees returning from extended leave is an invaluable business practice. Not only will the employees feel valued, but it can help ensure their continued success, and your business will benefit from retaining experienced workers.
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