Back at Work? Tips for Guardsmen and Reservists

Soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard take the oath of reenlistment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
Soldiers from the 248th Aviation Support Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard, take the oath of reenlistment at the Udairi Airfield, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 4, 2018. (Andrew Shipley/U.S. Army photo)

If you are a reservist or in the National Guard and returning home from deployment, you may already know that the transition back to your previous job can have its ups and downs -- and present challenges for you and your workplace. Here are some tips to help ease your adjustment back to work.

Contact your supervisor.

Before returning to work, ask for a briefing on the current situation, including issues such as how your responsibilities were handled during your absence, changes in personnel, and new policies and projects.

Ease into your return to work.

Focus on communicating, being patient, anticipating and accepting changes, and using this time as an opportunity to start fresh.

Avoid "taking charge."

Recognize that your absence may have forced co-workers to take on some of your responsibilities, and they may resent it if they feel you've come back to take control or criticize them. Be supportive of decisions that were made and ease back into your previous role gently and with open communication.

Consult with your commanding officer.

They may have experience advising others with similar transitions or may be willing to speak to your employer on your behalf to address any concerns or to help ensure a supportive environment for you when you return to work. Also, make contact with a Transitional Assistance Program (TAP), which many branches of the service offer, although they vary in scope and quality.

Talk about it.

By talking with others, particularly other reservists going through the same process, you will relieve stress and realize that other people share your feelings. Reach out to trusted relatives, friends or faith leaders.

If your employer provides an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), take advantage of it. Such programs often provide excellent resources for making the transition back to work -- as well as home and family -- a healthy one.

Take care of your physical health.

Getting plenty of rest and exercise, eating healthfully and avoiding drugs and excessive drinking will help you manage stress more effectively.

Know your rights.

You are protected by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which applies to all employers regardless of their size, and protects those in the reserve forces of the ArmyMarinesNavyAir Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Your rights include the following:

If you are a permanent employee, you must be reinstated to a comparable position (e.g., similar seniority, pay and status), and if you can no longer perform the job, your employer must use reasonable efforts to help you upgrade or update your skills.

Unfortunately, employers do not have to continue paying for health insurance while you are on active duty, although many large companies do. When you are returning to work and transitioning back from Tricare or COBRA, make sure your health coverage is reinstated promptly. If you feel overwhelmed by the return or are unable to function at work or home, seek professional help from a mental health professional.

Talking with others about your experiences and what you're feeling can help; it's not a sign of weakness.

The National Mental Health Association's Operation Healthy Reunions is a first-of-its-kind program that provides education and helps to bust the stigma surrounding mental-health issues among soldiers, their families and medical staff to ensure that a greater number of military families receive the prompt and high-quality care they deserve.

Service members and veterans facing a mental health crisis can call the VA Crisis Line at 988, press 1. Help also is available by texting 838255 or chatting online.

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