How to Return to Work After a Concussion

a business man looking out a window. Out of focus chairs are in the foreground.

Concussions are extremely disruptive events for the majority of victims.

Whatever the situation, it can be difficult to know when and how to return to work after a concussion.

In the past, medical professionals have prescribed “rest and recoup” as the best method for healing after a concussion. However, in recent years, more and more evidence has shown that excess rest can actually worsen a concussion and prolong the time it takes to get back to normal. 

In this post we’re going to give you some tips for getting back to normal after a mild or traumatic head injury. Please not that this is not meant to be taken as medical advice. If you have any doubts, consult a medical professional about what treatments may be most beneficial for you. 

Factors that Affect Healing

As we proceed to give advice, it’s important to note that concussions aren’t “one size fits all”. There are a number of factors that can contribute to how long it will take for your concussion to heal.

The word “concussion” simply describes a brain injury. A concussion can be as mild as a bump to the head, or as severe as internal bleeding and a fractured skull. The severity of your injury will be the biggest factor in determining how long it takes you to recover. 

Your medical history may also affect your ability to “bounce back” after a concussion. If this is your first concussion, you may have a better time getting back to normal than someone who has a history of concussion or traumatic brain injury. Trauma to the brain is different that other kinds of trauma or health factors.

Unlike things like x-rays, you’re not “in the clear” to take in more after a certain amount of time has passed. Brain trauma does not “reset” after a certain amount of time. Instead, it collects and collects until an individual reaches threshold. This is why it’s important to take the correct steps to protect your brain from strain, to get back to normal, and to prevent future injury from occurring. 

How Long Should You Take Off?

One of the first questions that comes to mind during recovering from a brain injury is how much time you should take off from work or school before returning. In the past, it’s been suggested that you take off days, weeks, or even months so you can get some brain rest. During this time it’s been suggested that you stay in a dark room and avoid reading, phone use, and other activities in order to limit stimulation or exposure to sound and light. 

While it’s definitely important to make sure that your brain gets the rest it needs before you return to work after a concussion, this period is actually a lot less time than you think. 

While bed rest is important, it’s also worth noting that too much rest hasn’t been proved to significantly improve concussion symptoms and recovery time. A study published in the National Library of Medicine concluded all the way back in 2002 that bed rest is no more effective than no bed rest at all”. It also noted that while bed rest may have some benefit within the first two weeks, it isn’t significant.   

When Return to Work After A Concussion

Let’s be clear: this does not mean that you should go straight back into a full-time educational or work setting. In fact, going back too soon can lead to delayed recovery in the long run. When you decide to transition back into the workplace depends on your doctor’s recommendations and the severity of your injury. It also depends on the type of work you do. Desk jobs may be easier to transition back to than jobs that involve physical labor or dangerous worksites, where re-injury may be more likely. 

Keep in mind that the key to transitioning well is balance. Don’t expect to go back to a full workload (or whatever capacity you were at) right away. Instead, the best approach to coming back to work is to take it day by day, in increments. Talk with your employer and HR to coordinate the best approach for you to transition well. Starting with half days or a “one day on, one day off” type of schedule may be helpful for some individuals. This kind of approach allows you to be productive and get used to being back in the workplace while still letting your brain get the rest it needs as it continues to heal. 

If possible, delegating high-stress projects that require total concentration might help take the pressure off. Starting small can look like simply coming into the office, engaging with coworkers, answering emails, and getting your brain and body used to different types of stimuli once again.

Throughout the work day it’s important to take breaks whenever necessary, and to break before you feel tired. While it’s good to push yourself, in the beginning it’s important to know your limits and take the time to recognize when your body has had enough. 

The Parachute Institute has a great 5 step guide on how to return to work after a concussion. After a brief rest period and gradually adding in light activity, it’s advised to work back up to full time work bit by bit, asking for accommodations such as adjusted hours, quiet work space, etc. until accommodations are no longer needed to complete the work. 

Considering Other Work Options

While it’s less than ideal to consider a career change, it may be important for some individuals who have experienced TBI’s to transition to other lines of work. This is especially true if you work in an industry like construction, where the chance of re-injury is significantly higher than it would be if you worked in an office space or in the service industry. Occupational therapy may help you in identifying the particular skills that you have and what kinds of jobs you may be best suited for post-injury. 

Post-concussion Syndrome

In an ideal world, every concussion or brain injury would heal in a matter of days or weeks. Unfortunately, concussion and brain injury symptoms can last for months or even years. If you are still suffering from symptoms of a concussion such as concussion, difficulty focusing, or headaches, you may have what is known as post-concussion syndrome. As the name suggests, this syndrome keeps individuals who has suffered a mild TBI from feeling like they’ve completely “bounced back”. This can be extremely frustrating as it can effect all aspects of life, including your work, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. 



If you’ve suffered from a mild traumatic brain injury as the result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Our team at Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel can help you determine whether or not you have a claim, and will work with you to pursue your largest reimbursement package possible. Give us call to speak with one of our traumatic brain injury personal injury attorneys. We look forward to serving you soon!