By Loren Smalley
It’s not uncommon to feel a little nervous before taking a vacation from your job. You may worry about things like, “Will my work pile up? Will my clients get serviced? Will I be seen as less dedicated?” Usually, such concerns are far outweighed by the rejuvenating benefits of taking a vacation break. But when we need to plan extended time off from work for medical reasons, the preparation, which can be an overwhelming, anxiety ridden process to begin with, is complicated by concerns about our health and maybe even our income. So how can you minimize some of the stressors when taking medical leave? These strategies might help:
- Review your employee handbook to familiarize yourself with policies and procedures related to taking medical leave.
- Meet with your supervisor and Human Resource Department to discuss the nature of your request. They can help you get the information that you will need and navigate the process. Follow up in writing after the meeting to submit your formal leave request and thank them for their time.
- Schedule a separate meeting with HR for assistance completing necessary paperwork and medical forms. This also gives you the opportunity for a more in-depth discussion about leave eligibility, use of sick and vacation time, short-term and long-term disability insurance, FMLA, etc. Remember, too, that you can always consult your employee handbook or talk to your HR department while on leave if you have additional questions or need more help with the process.
- Make a work-related to-do list, tackling the most important tasks first and completing as many of the rest as possible before your leave begins.
- Decide what, if any, contact you will have with your office or clients; set and clearly communicate boundaries about emails and phone calls during your absence.
- Hold meetings with your supervisor, co-workers and key staff to delegate your workload and put a written plan in place to ensure that your work duties are handled while you’re away. Alert colleagues of any pending issues, projects in process, or upcoming deadlines.
- Determine how to let your clients or key contacts know about your absence. Assure them that they will be taken care of while you are gone by providing specific information about who will be their contact(s) and how their needs will be met. Make sure other staff members can be available to assist them in the event they need immediate attention.
- Make sure your files and notes are well organized and easily accessible so that your co-workers can find the information they need to be effective and efficient while filling in for you.
While they may not alleviate concerns about your health, doing these things ahead of time can help to relieve some worries about being away from the office and make the transition back to work less stressful.
Loren Smalley is a career coach in the JCS Career Center.
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.