Picking up instead of putting down

Steel Europe continues to take the topic of corporate social responsibility seriously, says Andrea Meyer from Duisburg. For 35 years, she has helped people return to their jobs following serious illness.

I’ve discovered that feeling sorry for my clients doesn’t help them. On the other hand, compassion and practical solutions do. That’s why for many years I have worked in workplace rehabilitation through our transitional return-to-work program in Duisburg. I’ve been at the Group for 42 years – 35 of them as a social facilitator – and I know all the details of the people and processes here. But still, I don’t consider myself to be the company’s “kind soul,” like everyone claims I am. I’m far too levelheaded and professional. It’s my job to integrate people back into the workplace following a psychological or physical illness so they can become productive again. That means helping them adjust to a position in the company that matches their abilities after a long-term absence.

Occasionally, it is a long, tiresome process that I need to cope with, working closely with HR officers, company physicians, and occupational health advisers. Each case is different. To help me perform my job properly, I need to know the company inside-out and think strategically. Further, I need a fair amount of interpersonal skills, empathy, and intuition. You have to build trust, but be consistent and ambitious. This is the only path to success and the only way to help rehabilitate others. That’s exactly what I am working toward.

I am proud to be active in this area of the company. In today’s world, few companies actually bother with the relative luxury of going the last mile in corporate social responsibility and helping employees in this way. At ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe we have a leeway to shape programs that is unheard of elsewhere, and I think this is fantastic. In other necks of the woods you hear things like, “If you can’t perform, then hit the road.” We have an established structure with a “catch net” philosophy for employees with differing needs. We are fortunate to be able to reintegrate nearly two-thirds of our clients, who happen to be 95% male, into the workplace. For the remaining one-third, we seek out other solutions, which are always socially responsible ones. We can take pride in this service. I hope that this area will remain intact and that we can continue to develop it in new ways, such as finding even more creative options for adapting existing jobs to the needs of people with specific limitations.

“I’m a true problem-solver.”

ANDREA MEYER, workplace rehabilitation officer, return-to-work program

It’s true that my job pushes me hard, every day. I often face individual fates that make my own problems pale in comparison. I am fortunate that I can keep my work from invading my private life. I believe that maintaining a professional distance is essential – otherwise I couldn’t perform my duties properly. It helps that my husband does an excellent job of keeping me on the ground. And I also use our little yard and beautiful home to clear my mind. We enjoy visiting with friends, reading, cooking, baking. These are the activities I love when I’m not at work. I’m a true problem-solver and have always found challenges and people or particular situations to be stimulating. So I could picture myself continuing to work in this charitable field after I no longer need to work actively for the company. It would be a great way to preserve my wealth of experience. But, for the time being, I will stick to my multifaceted job, which I really love.