7 Unspoken Anxieties Employees Really Have About Leave

For most employees, the reason for taking a leave of absence only tells one side of the coin. While an employee focuses their energy on dealing with the loss of a loved one, recovery from a serious injury, or the birth of a child, employees are also wrestling with very real concerns that extend beyond their immediate course-altering life event. 

Unpacking these concerns can help further humanize the complicated journey that is taking a leave of absence. By better understanding what’s going through the minds of employees taking a leave of absence (or wanting to take one) it allows us to provide a more supportive and empathetic approach to managing a leave.

1. Job Security

If it’s in the headlines then it’s likely on the minds of employees, and these days it’s hard to open up a browser and not learn about another tech giant laying off staff. When employees realize they need to take a leave of absence, especially if the leave is for an extended period of time, they may look at the economic climate and have real concerns about their job being at risk. 

This can have a few adverse effects. The obvious is a constant worry of the unknown about their job security, the other effect is a little less easy to detect. An employee thinking their job may be at risk might forgo taking a leave of absence they not only need, but are also legally entitled to. 

2. Financial Concerns

While job concerns can lead to financial concerns, what’s important to underscore is that even if an employee’s job is secure the bills must be paid. If the leave is unpaid (perhaps only a job-protected leave) or if they are unable to collect disability or unemployment benefits an employee might feel a real financial squeeze at an inopportune time in their life.

It’s important to stay mindful that providing clarity around pay during a leave of absence, as well as continuing to fight the good fight internally for more paid leave benefits, can do wonders in alleviating concerns around finances.

3. Stigmas & Stagnation

The stigmas associated with taking a leave of absence take a variety of forms. From employees being worried about being passed up for promotion, to feeling like taking a leave might cause backlash in their current role, to wondering if their role will be eliminated if they leave. 

The added issue with career stagnation and stigma concerns surrounding LOAs is that they’re often hard to talk about to an employer. These concerns of course are based on a lot of workplace truths, in fact, Tilt was founded because of these stigmas (more on that here). Removing these stigmas starts from the top, which is why it’s so important to get leadership buy-in so employees feel empowered to take leave.

4. Returning to Work

If stigmas and stagnation are hindering employees taking a leave in the first place, an equal concern is their uncertainty about the work environment they’ll be returning to. Employees may be concerned about the amount of work they will face upon returning from a leave of absence. 

Will they be overwhelmed? Will they return with nothing to do? It’s possible their role might look different than when they left, and it’s possible their colleagues have taken the returning employee’s responsibilities in their absence. Provide a roadmap to help managers make the re-boarding experience a positive and make the return to work experience a positive one.

5. Manager mishaps

Managers are wonderful at a lot of things that pertain to their job descriptions, but unfortunately LOA experts they are not. While the relationship between HR and managers is different from managers and their direct reports, it’s important to understand that employees might have serious concerns about even telling their manager for reasons described in section 3, and then how they’ll behave once they’re on leave.

Educating managers about what they can and can’t do or say is vital to a successful LOA experience, and guiding them with tips to keep employees engaged in a supportive and legal way throughout the leave journey can help alleviate these concerns.

6. Health and Well-Being

When an employee goes on leave it’s easy for those still working at your organization to detach themselves from the very real-life experiences they are going through. The truth is that the life event itself doesn’t tell the full picture of the employee’s leave experience. They may be battling physical and emotional trauma while they are on leave and it might be a major concern in the lives of your people taking leave.

Having an empathetic approach to leave management can help ensure that your employees feel supported in more than just a transactional manner. A human approach to leave can help make employees feel that they have the space or support they need when their health and well-being is suffering.

7. Process Confusion

The processes that HR has used to manage leaves historically is as confusing and  frustrating to employees as it is to People Teams. Process confusion gets compounded when the employee’s life has been flipped upside down. When you need to focus all your energy on a loved one or are going through a critical live event yourself, the last thing you need is for the process of taking a leave to add anything to your overflowing plate.

Make the leave process as simple for your people as possible. Take out the guesswork and give them the guidance they really need to make leave easy. This can be difficult for many people teams because they might be working with legacy systems or don’t know how to break free from spreadsheet purgatory. If this is the case you might want to turn to 3rd party leave management solutions that can take the burden off both your plate and the plate of your employees.

Shine light on relief

Bringing light to these concerns is important for organizations because only then can HR be empowered to provide the support and resources necessary to help employees navigate the leave of absence process. Not only is providing a positive leave experience the right thing to do for your people, it can also help to promote a positive work-life balance and increase employee engagement, retention and satisfaction.

About Tilt

Tilt is leading the charge in all things leave of absence management through easy-to-use tech and human touch. Since 2017, our proprietary platform and Empathy Warriors have been helping customers make leave not suck by eliminating administrative burdens, keeping companies compliant, and providing a truly positive and supportive leave of absence experience for their people.

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