5 Tips for Successful Return to Work after Critical Illness

When a diagnosis of a critical illness occurred at the peak of an executive’s career, it was a devastating tap on the shoulder and a reminder of her vulnerability. Her physical recovery went well. Just a minor distraction as she managed the logistics of client commitments and her treatment in her usual professional way. The experience offered insight and motivation to up her game in self-care.

Her emotional recovery was a different story. The crippling fear of irreparable career derailment compounded feelings of loss and disappointment. Unlike an early-career pause to start her family, critical illness was both unplanned and devoid of any prize like a little bundle of joy.

Time to Reinvent Yourself (TRY), business concept acronym


Recent studies show that most employees returning to work after diagnosis and treatment of a critical illness share three common challenges:

  1. Financial wellbeing;
  2. Relationships within their personal and professional lives; and
  3. Impact of work on their health.

Executives, managers, and highly-skilled professionals experience additional challenges related to:

  • loss of status, forward momentum in their career, connection with their work and their workplace
  • compromised motivation, desire, enthusiasm, confidence
  • self-doubt and questioning "Who am I now?"

If you have been sidelined by a critical illness or you know of someone who is preparing to return to work, here are 5 tips for successful return to work. These tips are related to emotional intelligence and are based on the 5 elements in the EQi 2.0 Model. When integrated with the 12-week THRIVE plan, these tips help with taking charge of personal and professional life issues related to health and emotional concerns as you return to work. 

  1. Self-Perception:  Identify “the” one strength that you are known for that can be mobilized to re-examine what you truly want to actualize in your life and career in the next 90 days.
  2. Self-Expression:  Identify a particular situation in which you will need to be more assertive in order to have your needs met in a healthy way as you recover and rebuild your life and career.
  3. Interpersonal:  Examine your relationships. Identify those you want to develop into strong bonds to support you as you return to work and when setbacks occur. Some relationships may need to be put on hold temporary or permanently. Mutually satisfying relationships are critical. 
  4. Decision Making:  Identify what situations might come up that will require well-developed skills in Reality Testing and Impulse Control. Test your perception of reality before taking action. 
  5. Stress Management:  Put stress-management at the top of your list and top-of-mind to maintain your physical and emotional health. Practise “Extreme Self Care” by engaging in activities that nurture your optimism and resilience despite setbacks. 

Integrate these tips in your return-to-work plan to reignite your desire, redefine your work, and rejuvenate your peak performance!

Learn more about our THRIVE Coaching Program and how we help leaders rejuvenate peak performance for successful return to work during and after critical illness. Contact us to schedule a call to evaluate if this program is a good fit for you and/or your organization. Download our free THRIVE EQ Worksheet.

We help leaders to be effective by recognizing and utilizing their competencies while adapting their behaviour in situations that require a different approach. Our key tools and resources for leading dynamic change and positive transition include: Emotional Intelligence, TRACTION (EOS Model)Net Promoter System, and the Emerson Suite.

Contact Patricia Muir at patricia@maestroquality.com, at 416-804-4383, on LinkedInMaestro’s FacebookTwitter.