“It’s Weird to be Back”: Returning to the Office after North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Leave

October 27, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

In the struggle to obtain North Carolina workers’ compensation, hurt and injured workers often think only one or two steps ahead.

So let’s think four or five steps ahead today.

What will happen once you recover from your injury or illness and return to work? What might the environment be like at work? What challenges might you face in terms of re-acclimating? What should you do if and when co-workers or superiors want to discuss your time off or even challenge whether or not you needed or deserved workers’ comp benefits in the first place?

These questions are all quite complicated to answer. But it is worth discussing strategies for how to avoid “weirdness” after you return to the office. Here are some suggestions:

• Prepare a spiel in advance to answer basic questions about why you went on workers’ comp, what it was like, and how you recovered and got back to work. This might sound silly, but you may want to actually practice this spiel at home with a spouse or a friend. This way, you will have a quick, snappy answer that will ward off unwanted questions and staunch nosey gossip.

• Don’t expect to “normalize” everything on day one. Expect that there will be an adjustment period. Even if you did not go on an extensive North Carolina workers’ compensation leave, and you never had to fight with your employer over your treatment, it’s totally normal to feel disoriented and a bit out of sorts during your first days and weeks back on the job. So provide yourself a break.

• Understand what you can and cannot say about your workers’ compensation agreement. This is critical. Depending on the terms of the settlement, you may not want to disclose certain aspects of your care or talk about the terms with co-workers or superiors. Consult with your North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm before returning to your job to make sure you understand the do’s and don’ts.

• If it’s too weird for you to stay at your job, even after you’ve spent some time and energy and resources trying to re-acclimate, consider switching companies or even changing careers. Understand your skill set, needs, and utility, and recognize that you are never “stuck” at your job. You can always harness new ways of thinking, outside resources, and vocational training to “begin again” or make lateral career moves.

More Web Resources:

Returning to work after a long absence

How to tell if your co-workers are jealous


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