While some people are very open when changes occur to either their physical or mental health, others are less open and may not feel comfortable sharing, especially with a manager or colleague. It’s important to recognise that there are physical signals to be aware such as illness, rashes, weight loss/gain, changes in complexion but there are also mental health signals which may not be recognisable.
A few signs that could signal someone is going through a change in their wellbeing are:
Remember that everyone can have an off few days, so use your best judgement on when to speak with them but if there are other issues going on, they may still appreciate knowing they can speak with you if they need help.
Starting a conversation about someone’s physical or mental health can be difficult. AXA Health’s Physiologist and Mental Health First Aider, Anthony Glock shares his suggestion on how to start that conversation:
Communication is a two-way street and one important way of that is listening. Listening is the first part in helping to resolve a problem- if we don’t listen properly it’s harder for us to identify the real problem. To be a good listener:
If they have needed to take time off work or work from home keep in contact through different channels like emails, phone calls, text, skype etc. and keep them in the loop as much as possible (unless they have asked for no work-related contact).
It’s important to be flexible and adapt your management style with each individual as we’re all different. And this shouldn’t change when trying to support those with their physical or mental health.
Everyone will experience conditions and changes differently.
Some may only need a few days off and others may need longer. Some will be open about their feelings whereas others may hide it and only reveal it during a formal meeting. It is important as managers to respect your colleagues’ wishes about their health and try support them in the way they would like while sticking to company policies and obligations.
When people have changes in health it is your responsibility to offer adjustments to their workload and workspace to help them manage their condition. This applies to colleague who are off work but also colleagues who are continuing to work.
During the meetings it’s good to consider what you’ll speak about such as:
When someone is ready to come back to work, you will need to prepare them and possibly the team as to the challenges ahead and how things will work.
When anyone returns to work after a period of leave it can be very daunting. It will likely be harder the longer they’ve been off. There’s lots of ways to make it easy for them to re-integrate back into their role and the team. These include planning the return to work, first day back and a back to work discussion.
We all recover at different speeds so there isn’t always a set return date following a period of absence. During your regular catch ups, you’ll reach a point where either you or they feel it’s time to discuss coming back. When this time comes there is a lot you can do to reassure and encourage them along with helping them prepare to return.
When someone comes back it’s good practice to have a conversation to fully understand how they are and help them readjust to the working environment. If you’ve met them outside or at reception take them to their desk (especially if it has moved). They may find large groups intimidating so being there to reassure them can help ease any nerves.
You should try to aim to complete the interview as soon as you can. This allows you to judge if they are indeed well enough to be at work and set out your expectations of them and give them a chance to discuss any concerns or needs, they have. Make sure you hold the interview in a private room, try to include the four following tips:
If you have noticed a change in one of your colleagues and they are taking more time off sick than they would usually, it is your responsibility to have a conversation with them and to figure out the reasons for their absence. Sometimes deciding how to support them and what help you can offer is difficult. The first place to get help with supporting someone is contacting HR. They should be able to provide further guidance and support for you.
You may wish to speak with your manager about what you can do to support them. If you have access to an EAP, they may be able to give you advice on what to do or you could even provide the employee with the contact details for them to seek advice.
Try to support your colleagues in ways you and they have agreed upon. Use your best judgement on a case by case basis as everyone is different and is likely to need different support strategies.