Dealing with a disability is something that one in four adults in the US have to do at some point in their lives. Due to decades of awareness, few of us are ignorant enough these days either to react with pity or doubt when it comes to the obstacles that a disability can place in your way. Nonetheless, it can feel like the discussion around these life-changing conditions is more tuned to general, sometimes vacant messages of encouragement, and less focused on practical things that can be of real use to someone with a disability.
For example, it is easy to say that a disability shouldn’t be a bar to someone (who wishes to do so) pursuing a career. Easy, and true. What the conversations often don’t cover is what can be done to accommodate the people seeking to do just that; it is this kind of discrepancy which can be so tiring for a person dealing with what might be a very recently-sustained issue. One area which can be particularly testing is when a person with a disability seeks to returnto work. This transition can be mentally, physically and emotionally taxing – and it’s worth looking at some of the questions around that.
Returning to work with a disability. Why?
If someone has been placed in a situation where returning to work is difficult for them – because some aspects of the return rub awkwardly with aspects of their condition – then the question of whether they should return at that point is worth asking. Are they worried about appearing to be a “burden” of some sort? If that’s the reasoning, a conversation about only returning when they are really ready is essential. Not least because, if you rush a return to work, it is possible to end up worsening a condition and spending longer away in future.
Another important question about returning to work relates to the basic nuts and bolts of the process. Will you be returning to the same job in the same building as before – and if so, will adjustments need to be made to accommodate the return? If you’re taking on a different job that allows you to earn from home, because your old job is presently not a possibility, then consider your disability insurance; many plans offer strong incentives to re-enter the workforce while still having support in your circumstances. A return to work is tricky for anyone, at any time, as it is a change in routine. Any assistance will be invaluable.
Rarely is it going to be possible to decide, post-disability, that you’re just going to go back to work tomorrow, and that’s that. Deciding on a date and working towards it will allow you to make sure you’re fully ready when you get back into the breach. It also allows for the tying up of loose ends so that when you step back in, there doesn’t need to be any waiting around. Nobody wants, at this point in their return, to have long periods of dead time while payroll issues or insurance paperwork are ironed out, or while adjustments to prevent worsening of an injury are put in place, so building those details into the process of returning will be important.
Returning to work after a disability can be thrilling and empowering, or needlessly exhausting. As long as you’re on top of the practicalities, it doesn’t need to be the latter.