Returning to school after any period of extended absence is a challenging prospect. Whether it’s a return after maternity leave or illness – or a stress-related issue could well be work-related – you are likely to have many question, anxieties and fears about going back to work.

So, what is the best way you can prepare for your return to work? How can you make the transition back as smooth as possible?

Firstly… don’t panic!

Many people feel very anxious about returning to school. The comforting news is that all schools should have procedures and processes in place that are well-rehearsed to make returning to school as easy as it can be. A phased return to work could be available, but it is highly likely that you will asked to attend a meeting to discuss your return to work.

This meeting is crucial because it lays the foundations for your return. It could also set certain boundaries too. Study your job description carefully and consider all the tasks you did and the different aspects of your role prior to your absence – and whether you think it is fair and reasonable to resume all of those tasks straightaway, or at some point in the future.

Discussions – if appropriate – with your GP, medical professional, or relevant work colleagues should have taken place before this meeting to inform the decisions that are made in it.

Planning your return

Back to work plans can be useful but equally stressful. These might include a scheduled hand-over meeting with the person who has been covering for you. Obviously, this needs to be timely and should leave you a suitable amount of time before you actually return to work so that you be properly prepared. A longer hand-over period might also be possible. This would allow you to ease back into things and to take account of any changes that have occurred during your absence.

Keep up to date and get back on track

Schools never stand still and education is always a fast-moving beast. Changes can occur quickly. From ICT passwords to school behaviour policies, it is important that you do your best (if circumstances allow) to keep abreast of any changes that have happened during the period of time you are off work. Of course, this isn’t always practical or possible, but the more you have kept up to date, the less you will feel like a rabbit in the headlights on your return. It will also then take you less time to get back up to speed and feel that you are back on track.

Regular meetings on your return

Regular scheduled meetings with a line manager can be extremely useful. Sometimes these can feel a little intrusive and like you are being constantly judged or ‘checked-up on’ – but make such meetings work for you. They are a time for total clarity and total honesty. Be reflective and totally honest with yourself about how you are coping – or about any changes you either want to make, or feel that you need to make.