Employee Retention

How to provide support after an employee leave of absence

From injury to parental leave, there are lots of instances where an employee leave of absence is needed. The longer the leave, the more challenging and intimidating it can be for that person to return.

To get the most from them, they need to feel comfortable in their role again. And that may look different from how it did before. After all, becoming a parent, having surgery, or getting a life-changing diagnosis can completely shift someone’s worldview.

So, how can you build in supports after an employee leave of absence? And how can you ensure they’re empowered to do their best after their return to work?

Consider supportive tech

Supportive tech can be a game changer for employees and even help them return to work faster.

I’ve got an injured finger as I write this. As a result, I’ve been typing on my phone and using a dictation app instead of a keyboard. This ensures I can keep writing without putting pressure on my injury, allowing me to heal faster and keep writing.

Dictation apps, height adjustable desks, screen readers, adaptable chairs, and ergonomic keyboards—there’s an option for just about every health concern.

Do some research into the employees’ health condition (if they disclosed it). Then, be sure to ask them what they want/need. They may not know what options are available to them, so it’s important that managers and HR teams are aware of them too.

Having the right tools after an employee leave of absence can make a world of difference.

Consider a phased return

Phased returns offer the chance to come back to work gradually after an employee leave of absence. This can make the prospect of returning less intimidating. It also allows the person to continue to rest and recuperate while building their strength and productivity back up.

They may need to start off with one day a week, then two the following week, three the next, and so on. 

It could be that they do reduced hours each day and gradually increase them.

The right pattern will vary from employee to employee. It will also vary based on the reason for the employee leave of absence and how long it was.

So it’s worth talking to your colleague to see what they need, rather than telling them they only have one option. That way, they’re comfortable with the solution and feel like their employer values them.

Catch up regularly

The only way to know what an employee really needs is to touch base regularly. These catch-ups should feel like relaxed conversations so that employees don’t feel like you’re spying on them or putting pressure on them because they’re not fully healed yet. 

You could do this weekly, or even daily, if your employee doesn’t feel like that’s too much pressure. 

The important thing is to have an open dialogue between managers and the employee, or HR and the employee, so that they can share how they’re actually feeling and how the current process works for them. 

If something isn’t working, look at ways you can pivot to help them get back to performing at their best.

Listen and learn

It’s really important to ask employees what they want and need rather than making assumptions.

One of the biggest contributors to our physical and mental wellbeing—that isn’t always talked about—is feeling supported by those around us.

That support starts with listening. It gives employees some control over a situation that might have been out of their hands. This is particularly true if the employee leave of absence was due to injury or surgery. 

Giving them agency back in this way can make a huge difference to their wellbeing. As opposed to taking that away by making assumptions about what will help them heal faster.

Offer flexible working options

Flexible working options such as changing someone’s start and finish time, or allowing them to work from home, can be game-changers for those coming back from an employee leave of absence. It means that they can work at a time, and in an environment, that works the best for them and their healing journey. 

It shows that you value them as a person and don’t just see them as another piece in a puzzle. This can also help them return to work quicker because they’re not forcing themselves to work when they don’t feel up to it.

For example, many health conditions, from allergies to chronic pain and anything in between, are often worse in the morning.

So while allowing an employee to start an hour later seems like a small thing, the extra hour of sleep can make a massive difference to their wellbeing.

Connect them to their colleagues

Perhaps you have a new mother returning to work. Connecting her with other working parents who’ve experienced raising a newborn further allows her to feel supported in the work environment.

One way you can do this is through employee groups. They offer opportunities for employees to get to know others with similar interests or backgrounds. Which then enables them to share their successes and their struggles.

Knowing you have a strong network when coming back from an employee leave of absence can significantly reduce anxiety.


It’s not just about getting employees back to work quickly that makes a difference to your business’s bottom line. It’s also getting them back in a way that supports their health and wellbeing so that they can perform at their best.

Supporting employees in their healing journeys with things like flexible working and listening to their needs are small steps that show you value them. They enable talented team members to keep working while they heal.

Returning from an employee leave of absence can be tough. Want to make it a breeze for team members to pick up where they left off?

Workrowd has the tools you need to keep everyone connected and engaged. No matter the reason for an employee leave of absence, our platform makes it easy to jump back in with strong support from day one.

Curious to learn more? Visit us online or email us directly at to schedule time to chat.

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