Extended absences: How do you support a team member back to work?

Written by Jamie Oliver Monday 20 May 2024
There are many things that might prompt a prolonged absence – injury, illness, bereavement, the birth of child – and managers need to consider the nuances of welcoming individuals back
Colleagues conversing

“It was the end of February 2022. I’d just closed down my computer for the day and felt a crick in my neck,” says Carlos Lopez, a business analyst at insurance company AXA Partners. 

“I felt a bit odd. My head felt hot. I actually went up two flights of stairs and stuck my head out of the window for some cool air. Then I felt pins and needles in my face so I Googled the symptoms. Then I called an ambulance.” 

Carlos, who up to this point was a fit and healthy 51-year-old, was having a stroke. “It was surreal,” he says, “but I stayed quite calm. My thoughts were clear but my voice had gone and I knew I needed help.” 

The ambulance turned up within ten minutes, and he then spent ten days in hospital. After six months off work, he began a phased return. 

“My company was great,” he says. “They didn’t badger me, they said: contact us when you feel better. I spoke with occupational health and the attitude was: return when you’re ready. At first I did one day a week, then two and eased myself back in. I’m massively tired, and don’t go into the office very much, but post-Covid there is less need to anyway.”

Read more: Managers’ responsibilities in helping employees back to work


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