Returning to work after time away with mental distress can be daunting. It takes commitment, belief in yourself and persistence. We know you can do it!

You’ve probably got a lot of questions about Workwise and what to expect when you get back to work.

We’ve put together some practical advice and information for you. We hope it will reassure you about our service, and help you return to work with confidence.

About Workwise

Returning to work



Sharing personal information

About Workwise

If I use Workwise services will I be placed in a job I won’t like?

No. Workwise consultants will help you secure real work, with real pay by encouraging you to explore your work passions and career dreams. It's not about any job; it’s about the right job for you. We encourage you to think about your job choices based on the things you really enjoy. You may already know what you want to do, or our consultants can help you explore your options.  


How many people get jobs using Workwise services?

Workwise employment consultants are incredibly passionate about what they do and pride themselves on getting results. We’ve helped thousands of people to choose, get and keep work. Up to 75 per cent of people who use our services are successful in finding a job.  

Will it cost me anything to use Workwise?

No. Our service is free and confidential. The service is available in several regions; South and Central Auckland, Waikato, Hauraki, Rotorua, Taranaki, Wellington and Christchurch. If you want to get to know us and find out how we can help, give us a call or pop in to one of our offices


Returning to work

Will working affect my benefit?

Usually the only change to your income is an increase. Any change to your benefit will depend on the work you choose. We work closely with Work and Income and ACC and it’s our job to make sure you have all the information to support you through this process.


What if I feel embarrassed about returning to my work place?

It can be quite daunting returning to work when you’ve taken time off to improve your mental health. But you don't have to apologise or justify being away, any more than you would if you were recovering from an accident or operation.

In the midst of a mental health crisis, people sometimes say or do things they wouldn't otherwise say or do. If this has happened, then you may feel the need to rebuild relationships. But, very often, your colleagues will just be glad to see you back at work, and you should try to accept that.

People are more likely to have been busy with their own lives and work, rather than preoccupied with why you have been off sick or what led up to it. 


What are some practical things I can do to prepare for returning to work?

What are some practical things that will help me maintain my mental health after returning to work?

The things that help promote good mental health are things you might expect an employer to adopt as a matter of ordinary good practice; some you may be able to organise for yourself, others might require action, or at least agreement, on the part of your employer.

The key to negotiating with your employer is to think creatively about what will enable you to do your job effectively. Here are some examples:

You are the best judge of what is going to be most useful for you. If you want to think through some of the possibilities with another person before negotiating with your employer, or have someone to support your request, you could ask someone involved with your care or treatment. You can also ask your supported employment consultant, if you have one.


What if I am worried about my mental health when I start working?

If you are worried about your mental health, or other people are expressing concerns, you may want to get professional help.

This is not giving in, it's taking action. If you work for a large organisation, they may have an occupational health service. Someone in the workplace is not only easier to access, but has the advantage of understanding the organisation and being an ally in dealing with your supervisor.

However, if you do not feel secure enough in your job to approach them, or there is no service available, you may want to talk to your GP or a counsellor or your mental health team. You may need a little time off work; and sickness absence with mental health problems is just as valid as that for any physical health problems.



What if I feel I can’t cope when I go back to work?

For many people, what matters is knowing they don't have to hide distress, and they can get on with their job without feeling pressured to continue if there are times when they need to stop or slow down.

If you need another person to help you recognise when you are overdoing it, you could discuss this with a trusted colleague. Talk about what they need to be aware of (your early warning signs), and what kind of support you would welcome.


How will I manage stress at work?

Stress is an individual experience. What stresses one person may not be stressful for another. Learn to recognise what helps you work well and what you find stressful in the work environment.

If you feel stressed, taking even small actions can improve your work life. Some of these actions may need to be negotiated, formally or informally, with your colleagues or managers, such as help taking an extra break, or asking for a different start or finish time.

There are many things you can do for yourself that don’t require input or assistance. 

Taking control – things you can do to manage stress

Preventing stress with the help of your employer

What will I do if I become distressed at work?

If someone is going through a mental health crisis or breakdown, whether or not it's caused by work stress it will be experienced in their working life.

If you can identify what triggers your stress, it is a lot easier to find the right coping strategies. If you get distressed, keep a diary of what happened, how you felt and how you reacted, so that you can cope better the next time that situation arises; or indeed learn to avoid that type of situation. 

Ways of coping

These are just some examples, and it may take a while to find what works for you. When you know what you need you can start talking with your employer about the things that will help you to help yourself feel better and get back to working.



Can I be discriminated against because I have a mental health issue?

The law says you have a right not to be discriminated against in employment on grounds of race, gender, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation or mental health issue.

The law requires employers not to treat employees or applicants with experience of mental illness less favourably than other people.

Employers must make 'reasonable adjustments'; in other words take reasonable steps to change work environments or arrangements that put a person with mental  health issues  at a substantial disadvantage. The law applies to training, promotion and recruitment, and outlaws victimisation of people bringing complaints.

You can ask for adjustments, at the point when you need them, even if you did not volunteer information about your mental health problems earlier. However, if you were asked directly about your health record when you applied for a job, concealing information could be grounds for dismissal.


Sharing personal information

Should I tell my employer if I have a mental illness?

Some people say you should be open about mental illness. Others advise against it, where there is a choice. Some recommend waiting until the employer has formed an impression of you based on your abilities and character, not on their preconceptions. Some companies have positive policies on disability and equality at work, which ought to mean that being open about your mental health is less of a risk.

An employer only has to make adjustments for needs that they know about. Therefore, if you want your employer to understand your needs, you will have to make sure that someone in a responsible position knows what they are. This could be your manager or the human resources department.

If you do decide to tell, think about how and when to do it, how much information you want to give, what kind of information, and who to share it with. For example, the human resources department may know your diagnosis, but they don't have to tell your supervisor or workmates.

You don't have to go into really personal details; focus on what you need for the job. Employers' concerns tend to arise out of assumptions about poor work performance. They want to know if you can do the job and will get along with customers or clients and the rest of the team. If you can show that your objective is to get the job done, this should go a long way to reassuring them. Being straightforward and unembarrassed about your history will help them put it into perspective. 

The potential risks of sharing something about your mental health history include:

The potential benefits of sharing information are:

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“Right from the beginning Workwise treated me as an ordinary human being... Workwise get out there and canvas people for jobs and just give you a really wonderful opportunity to start again… They’re a wonderful team. They’re very positive. They give everything of themselves.” – Workwise client