Economics of a Career Break

Shalini asked for an appointment. When she came for the meeting, she could barely walk. She was instructed to go home and rest. The meeting can be done later, after she recovers. She insisted because she wanted to discuss her medical condition. Doctor had advised her complete bed rest. She did not have any leaves, hence she wanted to resign. At this point, assurance from the organisation not only comforts the affected employee, but also has an effect on all other employees. Shalini was asked to focus on her health instead of focusing on work related issues. She was granted special medical leave.

After two weeks, Shalini called up. Her condition was slightly better. She was still on bed rest. However, she wanted to work because she was getting bored at home. The underlying thought of getting a salary without doing anything was troubling her. A work setup was created at her house. The work was not regular. Her whole day went checking her phone to make sure that she does not miss a mail or a call. At home, she was working longer hours and was accomplishing less. This again, was stressful.

It would have been easier for her if she would have been on maternity leave. She was counselled that maternity is also a medical condition. Sense of entitlement should be the same in both the cases. After two months, she visited the office. She was told not to come to the office, until she fully recovers. These assurances were making her comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. She wanted to resign but continue at the same time. Finally after overcoming the physical and mental struggle for three months, she joined. She was not fully recovered but she was much better.

The office looked like a new place to her. Her seat had changed. Someone else was doing her work. One of the colleagues got promoted. She thought that if she would have continued, she would have got that promotion. She lost it because she took a break.  She felt overtones of depression. Organization that supported her during the tough time was suddenly appearing unfair to her. This part is often underestimated by organizations. When an employee comes back from a break, employee wants to have same importance and responsibility. At this point, the employee’s perception of organization is very important. If the employee perceives sympathetic behavior, that is seen as demeaning and insulting.

Welcome back processes must have counselling sessions for the employee as well as the manager. The employee should be explained the importance of work-life balance. Economics is not about making money. It is about living life. Even if it is to be seen in monetary terms, it should not be looked at on a daily basis. Like they say in stock markets, long term investments do make money despite fluctuations.

Some friends were happy to see Shalini back. Also the visible confidence of her manager on her capabilities kept her going. As Shalini got engaged in her work, she started getting more responsibility. Now, Shalini has been working in the same organization for four years and has taken the place of her manager.