Expat Income Protection

Getting back to work after accident and sickness

Not being able to work due to accident or sickness can be quite distressful physically, emotionally and financially. Accident and sickness insurance can provide you income protection up to a certain percentage of your monthly income for the policy term. While insurance can provide financial relief during the period you are incapacitated, proper rehabilitation is essential as you prepare to get back to work. In this blog, we will discuss how you may prepare for getting back to work after a long absence due to accident or sickness.

Most people are anxious to get back to work as soon as they are discharged from the hospital. Sometimes people worry about what supervisors or co-workers may think, leading them to returning to work too soon,but if you are not fully fit, you are unlikely to be able to perform your job with the same level of efficiency as before and you may alsorisk further aggravating the symptoms. Depending on the nature of your occupation, you could potentiallyeven risk your own safety and that of your co-workers if you are not fully fit.

At the same time, uncertainty about when you can return to work can cause anxiety and stress. In your follow up consultations with your medical practitioner, you should discuss when you can expect to be able to return to work. This will help you mentally prepare for the length of any lay-off. Depending on the nature of injury or sickness, your medical practitioner may not be able to give a definite timeline in weeks or months; in such a case, ask your them about the interim milestones that you need to achieve in order to be fully fit. If your motor (muscle and or nerve) functions are impaired due an accident then you may have to undergo physiotherapy. Neglecting physiotherapy when you are feeling a little better is very likely to slow down the recovery process.

A long period of absence from work can cause people to worry about the changes which may have taken place in the workplace, when they return to work. Will their co-workers change? Will their jobs change? Will new skills be required if their job gets changed? Is there a risk of them being made redundant after they return to work? Uncertainty causes mental stress and may impair the healing process. It is a good idea therefore, to be in touch with your manager/supervisor during the period you are away from work. Give your them updates on the progress of your recovery and fitness from time to time.

A good manager or supervisor should also keep an employee updated on what is going on at work. Keeping your supervisor or managerupdated on your recovery will also help them planfor your re-integration in the work-place well before you return to work. Your health permitting, it may be a good idea to visit your work-place a few times to meet with your supervisor or manager and co-workers before you finally return to work. You may want to talk about your accident or sickness with co-workers; being open about your issues can strengthen relationships with your co-workers. However, you should not feel compelled to talk about your accident or sickness if you do not want to. Meeting and greeting people in your workplace before you return, by itself, will help you to be “in the loop” with regards to what is going on and re-integrating yourself in your workplace.

Most of us are creatures of habit - we like to follow a routine; many of us, even during the weekends. When we are working we follow a regular routine and this normal routine is likely to be disrupted when we are not at work recovering from an accident or sickness. Prolonged disruption of our daily routine can cause restlessness, anxiety and other psychological disorders (even depression in more serious cases). It is important that you plan a new daily routine, when you know that you will be away from work for a long time. Your routine should take account of your rehabilitation and other health needs; at the same time, it should also keep you productively engaged in activities that you like to do or are beneficial for you. Part of the routine should also include, as discussed earlier, regular contact with your manager/supervisor and keeping track of what is happening at work. If you are using a therapist or wellness expert, you should consult with them in planning your routine to ensure that your recovery is not impaired.

Very often when recovering from injuries, people actually feel better when they have returned to work. Sometimes suitable work activities can reduce the pain. Returning to work, as quickly as possible, after an accident or sickness can also reduce the financial impact on you and your family because accident and sickness insurance only covers a percentage of your income. However, you should never return to work before your injury is completely healed, you should get a ‘fit to return document’ from your medical practitioner and or hospital stating that your injury will not prevent you from fulfilling your job duties.

The document from your medical practitioner and or hospital may include a phased approach to get you back to full productivity in your work, suggest the number of hours you can work as you continue your recovery, suggest tasks you will be able to perform or not perform etc. However, you should recognise that the theyare unlikely to have sufficient knowledge of your work and occupational hazards.It is therefore very important to discuss the different aspects of your job in detail with your medical practitioner. Once you get a fit to return to work document from the medical practitioner and or hospital, you should talk through it with your manager/supervisor and form a plan for getting you back to work.

Conclusion

There can be no doubt, a long absence from work due to accident or sickness is physically, emotionally and financially stressful. In this blog post, we have considered how you may get back to work after accident or sickness. Many people are nervous about returning to work after a lengthy absence, but if you prepare well then you should be back up to speed at work in a short time.

An important part of the preparation for getting back to work after an accident or a long period of sickness, is to be financially stress free (as far as possible) during the period when you are not working. Accident and sickness insurance will help you take care of your regular expenses when you are not working. In another blog post, we discuss getting back to work if you are made redundant in your workplace.