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COVID-19 Mind Your Business

Mind Your Business – Return To Work – Workplace Mental Health

This content has been adapted from Morneau Shepell's workhealthlife.com, part of the CDSPI Members' Assistance Program (MAP). MAP is available to you, your family and team member.

Access their website here

A successful and healthy return to work from mental illness requires planning for and consideration of the employee, co-workers, manager or supervisor, and workplace. It is also important to address the individual’s often unspoken fears about returning to work as well as any logistical issues.


According to Health Canada, that’s the number of Canadians who will directly experience mental illness in their lifetime. That means someone close to you may need an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on.

Take an active role in contributing to better mental health for yourself and others. Return to work is one of the 5Rs of workplace mental health. Read on to learn more about how understanding return to work can make a difference.

What you can do to promote a successful return to work

As a person with a mental illness returning to work:

  • Be as clear as possible about what you can do. Talk to your manager and be open about what you are able to do and what you are not able to do. Make sure to actively participate in the development of your reintegration plan.
  • Know when to say “no” or ask for help. Work with your manager on what you should do in the event you have a concern or find that you are struggling. Asking for help is a proactive opportunity to address concerns as they arise and to make changes (if necessary).
  • Be prepared. Expect a few questions from co-workers and others about how you are doing. Prepare and rehearse an answer; that way, even if you are caught off guard you can still respond in a respectful and professional manner.

As a co-worker:

Welcome your co-worker back. Support them by being friendly, warm, and respectful, but try not to overdo it.

  • Respect the return-to-work plan. The return-to-work plan will set out clear expectations of your co-worker and perhaps even you. By doing your part and respecting the duties that your co-worker has been assigned you are not only supporting your co-worker but also contributing to a safe work environment.
  • Speak up. Let people know when you feel their actions or words express stigma. Alternatively, discuss any concerns with your manager so he or she can address the stigma.
  • Support your co-workers. Ask and learn about the mental health policies and programs available in your workplace.

As a people leader:

  • Ask your employee what they need. More than anyone else, your employee will know what they are capable of and what they need to succeed in the workplace. If you want to know how you can make their return to work successful, start by asking them—you may learn valuable information that can help smooth the reintegration process for everyone.
  • Set expectations. Set realistic goals and standards based on the needs of the workplace and your employee’s current abilities. Knowing what to expect will help reduce some of the returning employee’s apprehensions and will also help to determine integration milestones and success outcomes.
  • Lead by example. Be a role model. By actively showing that you value, trust, and respect the employee who is returning to the workplace you will create a welcoming and supportive work environment. When co-workers and others in the organization see you treating a returning employee with trust and respect, they will likely follow your lead.

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