Returning to work
As stated above, in most cases it is preferable to avoid sickness absence when experiencing back pain, however sometimes it is unavoidable and in such cases it is important to work towards as early a return as is possible.
Prolonged periods of absence from work may often lead to a number of negative consequences such as:
Returning to work may become more difficult the longer you have been on sickness absence so to make it easier there are a few things you can do:
- Social isolation
- Reduced physical activity
- Financial problems
- Low mood and lack of confidence
- Depression ( as a result of the above consequences)
- Stay in contact with your employer, either via your line-manager or the HR department ( or your employer may have another dedicated contact person). Keep them informed about any changes in your health
- Agree a plan for returning to work or plan regular review dates with your employer
- Discus what would have to be put in place to allow you to return to work, for example a change in working hours, duties or working environment
- Explore what services your employer has for people with health problems. There may be an occupational health department or a case manager who can help you with returning to work
- In certain circumstances it can be useful to allow your GP to talk directly to your employer instead of communicating via you. If possible arrange for all three of you to have a meeting where you can have an open discussion about your condition and how it affects your ability to do your job
- Be honest and open about what you can and cannot to because of your back pain. Back pain has different effects on different people and because you are off sick it doesn't mean you cannot do anything. Going to a fitness or sports club can actually be beneficial for your back health and explaining this to your employer may make you feel less guilty about going.
Returning to work on a part-time basis can also be helpful, especially in the initial few weeks when you are exploring how you manage your back pain at work.
In some situations returning to your job is not an option; it may be that adjustments at work are not possible or the job is not suitable for someone with back problems. In such cases it is useful to explore with your employer possibilities to retrain and come back in a different position.