Knowing how to be a good colleague to someone on sick leave is not always easy. You may be afraid of crossing someone’s borders and not want to disturb them or, in some situations, you may know almost nothing about why your colleague is on sick leave at all. We have collected a few tips for you to try.
Don't let things go completely silent
Quite a few people on sick leave experience total silence from colleagues and managers. This, of course, can be a burden in itself. It is perhaps easy to understand that some people hesitate to make contact, but for a colleague to disappear completely without anyone showing that they notice is undoubtedly hurtful. It could ultimately contribute to making it more difficult for those who are on sick leave to return.
A difference between managers and colleagues
Managers who experience that one of their employees is on sick leave should react in two different ways, according to work and organisational psychologist Krister Halck. On one hand, it is important to follow up and ask questions such as "Is there anything I can do to help?" On the other, you should show normal care and consideration, and that you hope the person on sick leave is doing well, he says.
Things differ a little more between colleagues but, generally speaking, close colleagues making contact with someone on sick leave is often perceived positively. People really appreciate it usually, says Halck.
There are, of course, differences between colleagues. Some are close, others are not. If you have a good relationship with the person on sick leave, it is natural to send good wishes for a speedy recovery or something similar. What would be really strange is if all 300 of your colleagues in the company suddenly contacted you to wish you a speedy recovery.
Circumstances are often unknown
When a person goes on sick leave, they do not have any obligation to provide information to the company. This means that you don’t really know what is going on in some situations. The reasons why people take sick leave vary enormously, and the way we relate to it also varies. According to Halck, most people have no problems relating to a colleague who has broken an arm, but if the sick leave is owing to psychological problems, it becomes more difficult.
As a colleague, you don't always know the reasons why someone is on sick leave, but one general rule worth remembering is that you can ask the person on sick leave what kind of communication they want. It is generally possible to talk about that much. “ Do you want me to get in touch and hear how things are going, or would you rather be left alone for a while? "
The importance of supportive colleagues
A study undertaken at South-East University in Norway in 2018 showed that employees who experience support from their colleagues have fewer health problems! Less anxiety, depression and even less back pain! It may sound weird, but the study showed that the opposite effect is also true. Employees who experience a lot of direction and little support in the workplace have more anxiety, depression and back pain. This really says something about the importance of showing that you care about someone at work.
Don't make it too difficult
It is better to have one message too many than one too few. For many of us, colleagues are a large part of our social circle, so it's nice to show that you care. Sending a message that you hope a person is getting on well and that "we’re looking forward to your return" costs very little for the sender, but it can mean an enormous amount to the recipient.