Overcoming fear for a full recovery

For employees with a disabling illness or injury, fear often can be a speed bump on the way to a full recovery. However, for employers, an employee’s actions resulting from fear often can look like apathy, indifference — or worse — laziness.

I recently helped one such employee who had a history of suffering from severe depression and anxiety. The employer connected the employee with Workplace Possibilities℠ while she was on a leave of absence to receive medical treatment but was interested in returning to work.

Although she had dealt with aspects of depression and anxiety in the past, her current bout had started to affect her performance at work, and she was missing important deadlines. When she returned to work, the fear of the thought of being watched was not helping her recovery.

Helping connect the dots
How can an employer support an employee’s return to work, but still have their needs met? Here’s how I helped:

  • Talk with the employer. The only information the employer had on the employee’s disability leave was that she was dealing with a mental health issue. As the employee’s direct manager was unfamiliar in dealing with behavioral health issues, I connected with the employer’s in-house ADAAA accommodations coordinator. Together, we coached the manager on how to help support this employee’s return, while still meeting expectations for project work.
  • Mediate between the employer and the employee’s medical team. The employee’s physician was interested in having the employee return to work, as it would be good for her to resume her day-to-day responsibilities. However, the physician was reluctant to proceed unless the employee was comfortable returning to work. I knew there had to be a happy medium between the physician’s thoughts and the employer’s needs, and, ultimately helped mediate the two perspectives.
  • Help set expectations. After connecting with the employee, her physician and her employer, I helped the employer determine a course of action. In the end, we were able to establish expectations that met everyone’s needs.

Onward and upward
Working with this employee was a rewarding experience, as her employer’s actions helped set her up for success. When I followed up with her after a few months, she told me that because I was there to listen and advocate for her, she believed in herself again.

About Selvi Springer
As a disability and productivity consultant with The Standard’s Workplace Possibilities program, Selvi works with employers in developing programs to assist disabled employees to stay at work or return to work. Selvi has a master’s degree in counseling and is a certified rehabilitation counselor and licensed mental health counselor. Selvi has been with The Standard in the White Plains, N.Y,. office since 2002.

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