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The challenges of reintegration after burn-out

The work environment can be demanding and can put a significant strain on the mental health of employees. These factors have a considerable impact on the well-being and mental health of employees. In Belgium, more than two-thirds of people with disabilities for psychological reasons suffer from depression or burnout. This trend is also observed in OECD countries.


Encouraging a gradual return

Les études démontrent que les employés reprenant le travail après un congé pour raison de santé mentale présentent un risque élevé de rechute, en particulier pendant la première année. Il est donc crucial de mettre en place une stratégie de réintégration efficace pour aider les employés à reprendre leur rôle et à maintenir leur engagement et leur productivité à long terme.


Reintegration: a collective process

The successful reintegration of an employee depends not only on their relationship with their manager but also on the dynamic with their colleagues. Their understanding and support are essential.

Indeed, the process of returning to work often involves adaptations, such as part-time work, flexible hours, or a limitation of stressful tasks. These measures may be perceived as "privileges" by colleagues who have remained in their positions.


Open and transparent communication

To defuse tensions and promote positive collaboration, it is important to explain the adjustments put in place while respecting the employee’s medical privacy. These adaptations are temporary and aim to promote recovery and a return to long-term productivity, which benefits the entire team. The team should also be informed of the pace of reintegration and the importance of supporting their colleague.


Implementing an effective reintegration policy

Many companies do not yet have well-developed and sustainable reintegration policies. Here are some key elements of an effective reintegration policy:

  • Develop a supportive culture: promote a work environment that values mental health and where support for colleagues in difficulty is encouraged.
  • Train managers and teams: enable them to identify signs of psychological distress, provide support to employees, and create an inclusive work climate.
  • Establish open communication: transparency helps build trust and combat the stigma associated with mental health issues.
  • Implement flexible work policies: adapt work hours, workload, or job organization to consider the employee’s temporary limitations.
  • Encourage peer support: put the employee in a situation of resumption in contact with colleagues who have had similar experiences. Their experience and support can be valuable.


A strategic challenge for the company

HR professionals play a crucial role in the successful reintegration of employees after a leave related to mental health. They are responsible for the implementation and monitoring of reintegration policies, as well as the training and support of managers and team members.



The successful reintegration of employees after a leave related to mental health is essential for talent retention and the resilience of the organization. By focusing on the dynamic of support between colleagues and addressing the unique challenges of reintegration, business leaders and HR professionals can significantly contribute to healthier work environments, a decrease in turnover, and ultimately, the retention of a stronger, more fulfilled, and more engaged workforce.


Article based on: https://theconversation.com/burnt-out-this-is-how-your-employer-can-help-you-return-to-work-for-the-better-231011
Author: Lode Godderis — Professor in occupational medicine, KU Leuven