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Working with co-workers and managing employees requires the ability to maintain a professional persona at all times. If you have a co-worker or an employee who is struggling with a medical condition, knowing how to address the matter head-on is essential to streamline the process of changing schedules and delegating tasks or responsibilities.

Taking A Leave Of Absence

There are many times in life that require leaving work or taking time off to recover or focus on something else. They may need surgery, have a severe illness or death in the family, or even need to enter drug or alcohol abuse treatment. When a coworker has a medical condition, they may use their paid leave while recovering or seeking the medical care they need to make a full recovery.


In March of 2021, 89% of civilian workers in the US had access to unpaid leave, with 23 percent of workers having access to some form of paid leave. In some instances, it’s also possible to apply for FMLA, or a Family and Medical Leave of Absence. Discuss the options your coworker or employee has available to them for what to do when a coworker takes a leave.


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Helping People Who Cover For Absent Co-Workers

Once someone informs you that they’re taking a leave of absence from work, it’s important to create a plan, as part of your employee wellness program, of action that keeps your company's operation streamlined and helps those covering for an absent coworker as well.


Address The Change

You should also let everyone in the office know that a team member will be out without sharing the reason for their leave or any sensitive information regarding their medical condition. Sharing too much information could violate HIPAA privacy laws. Review the responsibilities of the absent coworker so you can fairly delegate their tasks.


Ask questions of your employees to verify that everyone understands their new responsibilities as well as any new goals you have also implemented due to the coworker’s absence.


Provide Incentives

When you have an employee taking medical leave, it’s important to delegate remaining tasks and responsibilities without overloading the other workers. One way to motivate your employees to help is to provide incentives.


You could provide bonuses, gift cards, or even additional PTO (paid time off) for those who are willing to sacrifice more of their own free time for the benefit of the company and to support their co-worker in their time of need.


Offer Flexible Schedules

Another way to encourage your employees to help pick up additional tasks is to offer flexible scheduling.


Give employees the opportunity to set their own schedules if they’re willing to take on additional tasks, responsibilities, or shifts.


If possible, provide employees who volunteer their free time the option of working remotely from home. It’s a great way to incentivize them to take on additional work and responsibilities as necessary.


Check On Employees Regularly

One way to ensure that the operations of your business are streamlined is to keep communication open at all times. Check on your employees regularly by hosting regularly scheduled meetings.


Meet with co-workers who have volunteered to take on additional tasks individually to ensure they’re handling the additional responsibility well. Ask co-workers if they need any additional support with their additional tasks and responsibilities. Provide additional guidance as necessary to ensure that the transfer of tasks goes over smoothly.


What To Say/What Not To Say To Someone Returning To Work

Whenever you have a co-worker return to work after leave there are a few tips to keep in mind. Knowing what to say and what not to say to someone who is returning to work can help smooth the transition in the workplace as you restore responsibilities and delegated tasks.


What To Say To Someone Returning To Work

You might be excited to see your coworker after an extended absence, which is entirely understandable. But it’s important not to overwhelm them or pry into their personal life. Some acceptable things you might discuss with someone returning to work are:

  • That you’re happy they’re back

  • How you can help them to feel more comfortable as they transition back into their daily routine.

  • What has happened at work since they were gone. Fill them in on big issues like new clients or small ones like a new flavor of coffee in the breakroom.

  • What tasks have been completed and taken on by other co-workers.

  • A plan of action to help your returning co-worker assume their old responsibilities.


What Not To Say To Someone Returning To Work

Whether your co-worker has left due to a medical condition or a family matter, there are some topics you should not discuss with someone returning to work, such as:

  • The reason for their leave. If they choose to share the reason, that’s fine. But if they don’t, resist the urge to pry. It might be something they don’t want to discuss with their colleagues.  

  • Why their leave was so long. People need different amounts of time to deal with different issues. It’s not your place to second-guess the length of their absence.

  • Negative consequences of their leave. Sure, you might be a little annoyed that you had to pick up extra work or stay later than normal, but your coworker has enough to deal with without adding on extra guilt for missing work. Keep the conversation supportive.


Knowing how to address matters when a co-worker has a medical condition will come in handy whether you’re managing employees or simply helping your team work together in the interim. When you know how to address a coworker's absence, it’s much easier to keep your business running smoothly.


The 5 Keys To Better Employee Engagement eBook Free Download 


Sources - 90 Day Rehab Programs - What Data Does the BLS Publish on Family Leave? - FMLA Frequently Asked Questions | U.S. Department of Labor (


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