Returning after stress

If you have been on sick leave with stress, it is important that you plan how you will return to work.

Timing is key. If you start too early, there is a serious risk of relapse. However, if you wait too long, there is a risk that you’ll lose confidence in yourself and never return. Some people start before they have completely recovered to maintain attachment to the labour market, while others would rather recover completely before returning. Talk to your general practitioner about when to start.

When can you return to work?

Plan your return with your general practitioner and your employer/manager. The following may be signs that you’re ready to return to work:

  • You look forward to starting again.
  • You understand what caused your stress. Some conditions may have to be changed, so you don’t relapse.
  • Your stress symptoms are no longer a problem.
  • You can feel and act on symptoms if they return.

If your stress has developed into anxiety or depression, you should arrange your return with your therapist. Visit your workplace before you return to work, so you don’t get too overwhelmed.

Agree a plan for your return

Before you return, you should agree on your working hours, tasks and physical location. Tasks and working hours should be manageable. Talk with your manager about what’s expected and required.

Your manager should inform your colleagues about your working hours, tasks and any special considerations. The more information they have, the more likely that your colleagues will understand your situation, and the less you will have to explain.

Keep close contact with your manager

Have ongoing dialogue with your manager. This will ensure that you can cope with your tasks and working hours. Reassess, if necessary. It may be necessary to agree on lighter tasks etc. for a longer period – possibly permanently. It may take three or four months or even longer before you’re back to normal.

Consider a job change

If you can’t change the stressors, perhaps the solution is to switch jobs.

Last revised at Monday, February 26, 2024