Tips For Returning To Work After an Absence

By Stephanie Durham-Rivera

Whether returning to work after having kids, returning to work after the death of a loved one, or rejoining after a long hiatus; only you will know when you’re ready, willing, and able to join the workforce again. At times, the return to work can seem overwhelming. But with the proper strategies, it can become a little easier to manage. Here are a few tips to keep you healthy and productive.

1. Manage Your Expectations

Prior to returning to work, write a focus list of your priorities. There’s always a chance these will change, but this list will serve as a good starting point once you’re back in the office.  One of my tricks is to store the list on your phone or (my personal favorite) in a personal planner so that you can add to it later.

After you’ve listed everything, create an action plan of how you’ll tackle them. If it’s something that you can do in under 5 minutes, do it immediately instead of putting it off. Schedule everything else throughout your week.

2. Be Honest About Your Needs

Before you return to work, talk with your supervisor(s). Discuss your needs prior to your return. This way your workplace can be ready with the tools you need to be successful as soon as you return to the office.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by work to-dos. As soon as you start listing things you need to do, it can be like a dam breaking. If you try to manage all those things in your head, it’s hard to differentiate the level of priority and everything will feel like it needs to be completed that day.

3. Address the Elephant In the Room

You have been out of the office for a while – maybe weeks, months, or years. You may want to hit the ground running, working harder and longer. And, if it works for you, great! However, it is also important to address your anxieties and insecurities. The main thing to remember is that you will display some strengths and some weaknesses during your first days back at work. Being honest with yourself is half the battle. It will help prevent you from feeling frustrated or as if you are letting others down.

4. Ease Back In

It is absolutely all right to take the time to catch up with your co-workers, but if you need to, let your co-workers know that you may need some time. Otherwise, it may create more stress along with having to manage your new workload.

Give yourself permission to work at a slower pace. If you try to rush through work too quickly, you may end up making mistakes and creating more work for yourself.

5. Rest and Reflect

Returning to work after an extended period of time can be exhausting, and fatigue will only make your return worse. During your first month back, keep your personal calendar clear of too many obligations. Allow yourself the time to get comfortable with your new schedule. Pushing yourself at work and at home can be detrimental to your success.

Reflect. Are you still on the right track? Are there things you’d like to do differently? Take the time to process and ensure your goals aren’t forgotten as soon as you get busy.

If these strategies sound daunting, remember something: Leaving wasn’t easy. Starting again won’t be either. But you’re older, wiser, and stronger now. The world awaits your return.

Stephanie Durham-Rivera is a paralegal with McAngus, Goudelock & Courie, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her principal area of practice is workers compensation. She serves as the 2019-2020, NCBA Paralegal Division Secretary and Ethics Chair. Ms. Durham-Rivera received her B.S. from Howard University. Outside of the office, Stephanie spends her free time running marathons, camping, and spending time with her family.