Finding and keeping the right balance is key for a worker returning to corporate life after a period of ill health.
Workplace Doctor: Easy does it when coming back after a six-month break
I recently took six months off work for illness and am delighted to be back in the office once again. But how do I transition back into the fast-paced environment of a busy corporate office from a period of relative inactivity without burning out once more? Can you give me some pointers to help me get back up to speed while also ensuring I take enough time for myself and my overall well-being? SB, Abu Dhabi
Welcome back SB and nice to see you fully on board once again. “Delighted to be back in the office” are not words I hear every day, so I feel you must be very happy in the work you do. With that attitude, energy and now added well-being from the six-month rest, results are sure to flow. Yet the question is — for how long?
There is a famous television advertisement from Eveready batteries that springs to mind right now, where toy bunnies are powered to beat a drum, and it’s only the ones powered by Eveready that sustain the beat. Your family, your workplace and more importantly you need this magic ingredient for your well-being to be maintained. I am also happy to see your mindset of a slower transition from day one. We are not machines — they respond at the press of a button; we humans do not.
Here are some tips that may help:
1.Redefine your baseline with your new perspective
Before the illness, my guess is that you were unaware of how you felt when things were good or bad. Automatic pilot is so successful at desensitising us. I suggest you stop and identify what it means to feel good, as you currently do. How would you describe it? How does it feel to be re-energised? What is the effect of that on your reactions and aspirations currently? Now bottle that feeling. I seriously mean bottle it, because that must never be allowed to escape from your short-term RAM. It is to be your new baseline and reference point of the future. It’s the yardstick against which all else is to be measured. If it took you six months to find it and it feels so good. Why would you let it go? It is all too easy to fall back into the old routine and become what you are surrounded by.
2. Act as a marathon runner
No marathon runner ever sprints at the start line, and if he or she does, they seldom reach the finish line. Know your limits and set them clearly. Start slowly: schwey schwey as we say in this part of the world. Gradually build up, and know that the world will still exist tomorrow if that last file is not attended to today. A marathon runner always has his eye fixed on a goal. Could your goal be that bottle, representing achievement in the context of balance? Why should one thing, for example yourself, be compromised for another, and what needs to be done to revisit that bottle regularly?
3. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself with reactivity
You are more than likely looking to regain a sense of belonging and this comes with commonality, not separation. You may have stopped, yet the work activity did not. Look to discover what happened in your absence and ask the right questions to bring yourself up to speed. This should help reduce the likelihood of last-minute and short-term reactivity.
SB, enjoy the future — it looks refreshingly healthy from outside-in.
Balance is precious and long-lasting — seek it always.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague