Inside Disruption Blog

Return to Work — Getting back in gear

Tyler Arvig
June 28, 2017

For the moment, let’s not focus on the statistics or economics of why work matters, but on the daunting task of reengaging in something we once did well, but now question our abilities and competency. Think of something you took a pause from, perhaps under undesirable circumstances, and had to do again. Was it easy? Did you need help? Did you feel like you were 100% ready?


For me, this calls to mind an event a few years back on a racetrack. I have driven thousands of miles on racetracks, and I coach high-performance driving. Until recently, I have never damaged my car. But on a cool fall morning a slip in concentration led to a missed turn-in point, which led to sliding on grass, and soon after striking a metal barrier. Fortunately, I was unscathed, and it went about as well as incidents on racetracks go.


The next spring, I knew there would be challenges to driving again – mostly mental. I needed to plan. I needed a trusted coach to work through the plan. The plan and support worked, and I regained my confidence, slowly, over a weekend. Not only was my fear gone, but I was truly enjoying driving again.


Going back to work is no different. We may have left work under poor circumstances, but we can get back to it with some support and coaching. A few things stand out when it comes to a successful return to work:


  • Having a trusted treating provider: We need someone to help us work through our fears; encourage us to return to activity; and be a resource when we encounter barriers. Nobody will feel 100% ready to return – it is not human nature. But once we return, encounter the feared situation, and realize we can be successful, it becomes much easier.
  • Setting the stage with the employer: While each employer is different, it is in everyone’s best interest that we’re successful when we go back to work. Conversations with HR, a supervisor, or even coworkers prior to the start day are likely to allay some (perhaps exaggerated) fears and put us at ease with returning.
  • Expecting success: If we go into a situation expecting failure, we’ll get it. Conversely, the mindset of “I can” leads to the reality of “I did.” Do that every day, a little bit at a time, and we are on the road to being back at work.


With proper tools, we can all get back in gear, back on the road, and back to leading productive and meaningful lives.

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

About the Author: Tyler has over thirteen years of domestic and international experience in behavioral health workplace absence—including disability and worker’s compensation assessment, consultation with employers and insurers on complex claims, effective return to work strategies, program development and improvement, and supervision and training of industry professionals. He is a sought-after speaker, writer and contributor in the field of workplace behavioral health and workplace trauma recovery.