Heading back to work after you have been away can be challenging. Think about the final day of a vacation. No matter how relaxing your time away has been, the odds are pretty good that on that last day, you are already thinking about all the emails and projects that await you when you get back to the office.
And it doesn’t even have to be a vacation, right?
Many of us experience something called the “Sunday night blues”. You will sometimes hear the phenomenon called the “Sunday scaries”–a sense of dread that creeps up on us as our focus shifts from a weekend of enjoyment to the workweek ahead.
Returning to Work After Treatment
But if you have been away from work because you have been in treatment for a mental health disorder, a substance use disorder, or a combination of the two, the prospect of returning to work may seem particularly daunting. You might be worried about how much to say to your coworkers and whether they will be judgmental. You might be worried that your boss is less likely to trust you with important projects, or promote you because you have been in treatment. You might be worried that going back to work will lead to worsening mental health, a substance use relapse, or both.
Given these legitimate concerns, it is probably a good idea to do some work before returning to work–work figuring out exactly how you would like to handle the situation. We have some suggestions.
First Things First: Think About Yourself in Relation to the Job
As you are getting ready for your return to work, it is time to be really honest with yourself. To what degree, if any, do you think your job contributed to your mental health or substance use difficulties? It is possible that the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a new gig. That said, finding a new job is seldom something you can do instantaneously, so you are probably headed back to your current job for some period of time.
So, it is time to think about how you will talk about the situation with your supervisor.
Next Up: The Boss & Human Resources
You probably had to speak with your boss and/or someone from human resources when you requested time off so that you could seek treatment (unless you put in for some vacation time and kept the reason under wraps). Your return will probably include a follow-up conversation. While you might not be looking forward to that, it can be helpful for a couple of reasons.
First, you may need to work with your employer to ensure that you can arrange time off for appointments and/or recovery meetings going forward. It is also a good opportunity to discuss ways in which your boss can help you address or avoid triggers in the workplace that may have a negative impact on your mental health or recovery. Your HR professionals will understand the ways in which the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may apply to your specific situation.
Finally, this conversation is a good opportunity to reassure your boss that you are ready to get back to work. Keeping things positive in this conversation can help you rebuild trust with your employer.
Considering Your Coworkers When Returning to Work
Our relationships with our coworkers are, by nature, a little complex. They might be (or become) our friends. We might not get along with some (or even all) of them. They might just be people we see every day at work but don’t really think much about when we’re off the clock. Regardless of how we feel about them, we spend a lot of time with them—and that can make it difficult to figure out just what, if anything, to say to them about your time away.
It is important to remember that you are not obligated to tell them anything. This may be a particularly good move if your workplace is something of a rumor mill. You can, of course, pick and choose with whom you share as long as you are aware that information has a way of getting around among coworkers.
You might also choose to be more straightforward so that your coworkers all have the same information and have it directly from you. You still don’t have to share every last detail, but this approach can clear the air and help everyone move forward together.
We Can Help With the Work of Getting Well
Bel Aire Recovery Center is ready to get to work to help you improve your mental health, regain your sobriety, or both. We have the expertise, experience, and compassion necessary to help you do the hard work of reclaiming your life.