When an employee has a brain injury, it can be difficult for an employer to know exactly what they need to do to accommodate their employee’s needs.
Depending on the severity of the brain injury, an employee may just need a few days off. Or, they may need significant changes to their work environment and workload while they transition back into the workplace.
The important thing for you as an employer is to not apply a one-size-fits-all response. Instead, take the time to personally discuss the injury with your staff member and their needs.
Any brain injury can have a wide range of effects. The most well-known symptoms are confusion or difficulty remembering things, but it can also greatly impact everything from vision to social skills or behavior. In the vast majority of cases, these symptoms gradually fade with time, but more severe injuries can be debilitating and have life-long psychological effects.
To really address the injury and ensure a smooth transition back into the team, you need to be sure their unique needs or issues are addressed. Considering these factors can help with establishing a plan for a gradual, healthy transition:
Individuals recovering from a concussion or traumatic brain injury often report sensitivity to noise and light, which can make reintegration into a busy workplace complicated. If possible, consider placing the employee in a role or office location that is dim or quiet – based on their needs.
In the case of more severe brain injuries, there is also the potential for physical disability. This may mean making accommodations, such as installing accessible walkways or grab rails to the workplace.
Transitioning back into the workplace is an important part of recovery from a traumatic brain injury, but it is often best as a gradual process. Considering offering a phased return to work or flexible hours can help ensure your team member is able to get back up and going without overdoing it. A gradual return to work can also help if your employee needs to attend regular medical checkups, take medication, or needs more time to travel to work.
Along with offering a phased return to work, an employee may need more time to manage their tasks or multi-task. Temporarily lightening their workload can help compensate for their needs as they re-adjust.
Aside from tangible changes to the office, one of the best ways you can ensure your employee makes a smooth return is making sure they feel supported and safe throughout the process. Brain injuries have been linked to increased anxiety and depression, and a worker may feel apprehensive about returning to work and “dragging down the team.”
Take time to provide extra training or create a unique return to work plan to help guide them back into their role in your team. You may also consider pairing them up with a co-worker to provide continuous support and identify problems as they transition. This can help with relearning processes or using special equipment, as well as making sure they didn’t miss anything during their recovery.
Recovering from a brain injury is not a linear process. Some days may be more difficult for a person than others. Work with your employee throughout their recovery to make sure they are re-integrating and adjust as needed. With time, they will be able to more fully return to their normal role in the workplace. The key to ensuring their success is working with them every step of the way and allowing them to recover at their pace.