Communication for successful reintegration: how to do it

Successful reintegration starts with the right communication at the right time. The golden rule: keep the lines of communication open as much as possible - from the moment of reporting sick until after the employee has been followed up.

Keeping an open line of communication with your sick employee is the number one rule for a positive approach to absenteeism. Friendly and business-like at the same time, but keeping the right balance. Keeping a finger on the pulse is your best guarantee for involvement and - if necessary - successful reintegration.

Why staying in touch is essential

Proactively maintaining contact with long-term absent colleagues reduces the risk of fade-out - where a sick employee gradually disappears from the picture and does not return.  Open communication also increases the chances of successful reintegration.

Moreover, the conversations you have are worth their weight in gold: you gain insights into possible absence triggers in your company and how to avoid them. Provided you ask the right questions at these 4 moments.

1. At the beginning of the absence

Usually, labour regulations determine how and when an employee reports sick. At that point, there is no obligation to say exactly what is wrong. However, you can ask about the expected duration of absence; after all, you need to be able to organise work. In addition, ask if the absence is work-related and if there is anything you can do for the employee.


  • Take care of the employee’s concerns and agree on how much contact there should be during the absence period.
  • Decide by mutual agreement what information you will give to colleagues on the shop floor.

2. During the period of absence

Keeping in touch with long-term sick employees ensures that they experience a lower threshold for returning to work. Different forms of contact are possible, but home visits by supervisors and/or colleagues or telephone contact appear to be particularly effective. Show interest and ask what the employee wants to know about work.


  • Avoid a prolonged loss of contact. Stay in touch.
  • Send a get well card together with your immediate colleagues.
  • Information shared in confidence must remain between the persons involved in the conversation.

3. On returning to work

As a manager, take the time to sit down with the returning employee shortly after his or her return - or better still, just before. The employee will then feel valued and more at ease, and will be made aware of any changes at work. Also ask how you can help the employee in question to get back on track. If necessary, suggest an appropriate course of action.


  • Do not forget to inform immediate colleagues about the employee's return - and involve them in the welcome.

4. After returning to work
It is likely that the returning employee will need time to get used to being back at work. So, organise regular follow-up meetings during the period after return, possibly in the form of coaching. This process can involve the employee’s supervisor, but could be carried out by a mentor.

Keeping in touch during (long-term) illness: what do you say and how do you say it?

The infographic below sets out the essential information for keeping lines of communication open. Download the infographic here.

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