Recovery After an Illness: What to Do When You Need to Return to Work

Recovering from an illness can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of illness you had and how severe it was. It also depends on your state of health and how fast your body is able to heal itself. However, if you don’t recover fast enough for you to return to your best shape before having to go back to work, things can get quite difficult.

Working and recovering from an illness just don’t mix well together. Unfortunately, most of us have no choice but to return to work when our sick days run out. There are, however, several way to make the transition easier, such as:

1. Ask to work from home

Working from home is much less taxing than working on-site. If you can do your work from home, ask your employer to let you work remotely until you feel like yourself again. If you have hired in-home care services, working remotely can also help you maximize the healthcare that you have already paid for.

You can also consider asking to work remotely while you recover if you feel well enough. This way, you can avoid using up your sick days and getting too far behind on your tasks. Just make sure you can actually commit to the full amount of work that you usually do. Otherwise, ask your employer to reduce your workload for the time being—at least until you feel well enough to resume your normal workload.

2. Carpool

If you commute to work—whether via private car or public transportation—getting to and from your office can zap up a lot of your energy, which can make it harder for your body to heal completely. Furthermore, if your immune system is shot, you may also be more susceptible to illnesses found in public transportation.

That said, consider carpooling to work with your spouse, neighbors, friends, or co-workers. If this is not an option, use a ridesharing app instead—it may be a little expensive than your usual fare, but not putting your body through unnecessary stress is worth it.

woman working from home

3. Reduce your workload

If you’re not yet fully recovered from an illness, it can be more difficult to accomplish your normal workload. For one, you’re out of momentum after spending a few days or a few weeks away from work. And if you’re not in your best shape health-wise, it can be harder to focus on tasks, much less do them as efficiently as you normally do.

With this in mind, it is highly advisable to reduce your workload until you make a full recovery. Talk to your employer about cutting your hours or pushing back less important tasks. If your employer is understanding, they would be more than willing to cut your workload until you’re in tip-top shape again. After all, you showing up to work despite not being fully recovered yet already speaks volumes—so don’t be afraid to ask for accommodations when you need to.

4. Request accommodations

If your illness has long-term or permanent effects that require certain accommodations, speak to your employer about them before returning to work. For example, if you experience intense nausea as a side effect of your medication, you need to tell them that you need to be able to go to the bathroom frequently or as needed. Or if you need to adjust your workspace to manage your pain, you need to let your employer know so that they can make proper arrangements.

The law requires employers to make accommodations for employees with disabilities as long as they are within reason. But if your condition cannot be considered a disability, it’s your employer’s prerogative if they will entertain your requests or not. Either way, it’s always best to ask.

5. Get help with the house

When you are recovering from an illness and working at the same time, the last thing you want to worry about is housework. So, until you feel like yourself again, get as much help you as can around the house. Delegate tasks to the rest of the family, ask your parents to watch the kids, hire a housekeeper. Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you get enough rest after coming home from work.

Having to work while still reeling from an illness is an unfortunate reality for many of the working class. If this is the case for you, you’re not alone. And on the flip side, there are a lot of ways you can make returning to work easier, starting with the ones we’ve mentioned here.

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