There are approximately 1 million people in the UK currently living with the long-term effects of a brain injury. For many of these people, returning to work and having a long, successful career is a vital part of their recovery.

Brain injury is a generalised term that typically refers to an acquired brain injury. An acquired brain injury is brain damage that occurs after birth. Numerous factors can lead to brain injury, including brain tumours, carbon monoxide poisoning, stroke, meningitis or physical trauma such as a car accident.

People with a brain injury can suffer from a wide range of effects that differ in severity. The long-term symptoms associated with a brain injury can include behavioural and emotional changes, hormonal imbalances, difficulties with cognition or memory and communication problems.

Employment after brain injury

While it may not be possible for all people to return to work after an acquired brain injury, for many it is a realistic and essential goal.

An extended absence from employment, coupled with the ongoing effects of managing your recovery from a brain injury, can make getting back into work seem overwhelming. Careers with Disabilities want to provide people recovering from a brain injury with the right support, advice and resources they need to reach their future potential.

We have outlined several strategies which could help you make your journey back into employment a successful one:

Positivity is key; but be realistic

The attitude you have to returning to work is crucial. A positive attitude means both having a desire to get back into work, but also the clarity to carefully consider and plan your options.

Take the time to consider the type of occupations that you can excel in, identify the problems you may encounter in the workplace and outline the ways you can manage these symptoms.

Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and a loss of self-esteem. Finding the perfect balance between positivity and realism is a crucial step in your return-to-work journey.

Seek support

It’s essential to choose a career that is the right fit for your interests, skills, abilities and experience. While taking the time to research the jobs that are right for you, it can be beneficial to seek the support of family, friends or a professional careers advisor.

This can be particularly useful for people that have symptoms associated with memory loss, difficulties making decisions or reduced self-awareness.

Don’t return to work prematurely

It is common for people recovering from a brain injury face to return to work prematurely before they have understood the full impact their brain injury can have on their work performance and abilities. This often happens when someone makes a speedy physical recovery and assume their cognitive abilities have recovered equally as fast.

We advise waiting until you’re ready, both physically and mentally, before returning to work. Returning too soon may dampen your confidence and prolong your recovery time.

Be open with your employer

It is not a legal requirement to disclose your brain injury to your employer. However, if you choose to make your employer aware of your condition, then this may help improve your performance at work. By taking the time to discuss your symptoms and needs with your employer, they may be able to offer a range of adjustments to help you manage your symptoms in the workplace.

Look for remote work

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when countries across the world faced government-enforced lockdowns, the number of remote working opportunities has continued to increase. Remote working, which usually involves working from home, could help you to manage your symptoms, both physical and cognitive, better than working in a traditional setting.

Advice for employers

People recovering from a brain injury may have difficulties performing several tasks, both those who require physical activity and cognitive function. The long-term symptoms associated with a brain injury vary considerably, so it is essential to spend the time discussing with your employee the specific difficulties they face.

Based on the needs of your employee, your business should consider implementing certain reasonable adjustments to help them manage their symptoms and perform their duties effectively. Such reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Reducing noise stimuli through creating a quiet working station;
  • Permitting flexible scheduling to help an employee manage fatigue; or
  • Providing written instructions to help those with memory loss.

For more information and advice related to brain injury, visit the brain injury association Headway.