Challenge #2

If you’re concerned about post-operative pain or being less productive than before:

• Prepare with a physical therapist. “Give your physical therapist a detailed description of your day-to-day job tasks, and set goals and guidelines for being able to do those tasks again,” advises physical therapist Debbie Feldman, PhD, professor at the University of Montreal School of Rehabilitation. “Preparing your body physically reduces mental fears. That will give you the confidence to forge ahead when you return to the office.”

• Go slowly. Although you may want to throw yourself back into work to show that you’re a team player, “Don’t try to work through significant pain or pretend you’re at 100 percent when you’re not,” says Edmond Cleeman, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Consider working half-days your first week back. “If your doctor recommends using a cane or another assistive device, use it. Ice your joint if it’s sore, and make sure you get up and move around every half-hour to reduce the risk of blood clots and stiffness,” he says.

• Adjust your workspace. Ergonomic tools and accessories can make your workspace more comfortable, so you can be more productive. You might also want to hire an occupational therapist (OT) who can assess the physical and psychological components of your workplace and suggest adjustments and equipment. Some larger corporations offer this to workers, but employers are not required by law to hire an OT, even for disabled employees. To find a therapist, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association

Challenge #3

If you have a need or desire to re-enter the job market:

• Get your mind in shape. You want to show employers you know your stuff, even if you haven’t been working. “Read up on your industry. Attend a seminar. If you went to college, use the free career counseling services offered through your alumni association,” advises workplace consultant Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. “That way, when you go on job interviews or meet someone who could be a work contact, you’re able to show you’re up to speed on your chosen career field.”

• Get on a schedule. If you haven’t been on a regular schedule, start now so you’re not overwhelmed when you begin work. “Start and end your day at the same time and give yourself time slots for specific duties,” advises Langerud. For example, search for jobs in the morning; have lunch and take a walk; then network and reach out to contacts in the afternoon.

• Rethink your résumé. “I tell everyone” – even those who have been out of work for a while – “to start résumés, cover letters and even conversations by showcasing the experience that’s most relevant, not most recent,” says Hellmann. No experience to highlight? “Contact local nonprofits related to your area of interest and say, ‘I can’t write you a check, but I’m really good at X, Y and Z. Is there a project I can help you with?’” says Langerud. Not only does volunteering give you references and a body of work to show potential employers, it also eases you back into employment.