Barriers and facilitators for return to work from the perspective of workers with common mental disorders with short, medium, and long-term sickness absence: A longitudinal qualitative study

Margot C. W. Joosen*, Marjolein Lugtenberg, Iris Arends, J.A.W.M. van Gestel, Benedikte Schaapveld, Berend Terluin, Jaap Van Weeghel, Jac J. L. Van Der Klink, Evelien P. M. Brouwers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose:
Although common mental disorders (CMDs) highly impact individuals and society, a knowledge gap exists on how sickness absence can be prevented in workers with CMDs. This study explores: (1) workers’ perceived causes of sickness absence; (2) perceived return to work (RTW) barriers and facilitators; and (3) diferences between workers with short, medium and long-term sickness absence.

Methods:
A longitudinal qualitative study was conducted involving 34 workers with CMDs. Semi-structured interviews were held at two time-points during their RTW process. The 68 interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and thematically analyzed to explore workers’ perspective on sickness absence causes, RTW barriers and facilitators, and compare data across the three sub-groups of workers.

Results:
Workers reported various causes for their absence, including: (1) high work pressure; (2) poor work relationships; (3) unhelpful thoughts and feelings, e.g. lacking self-insight; and (4) inefective coping behaviors. According to workers, RTW was facilitated by work adjustments, fulflling relationships with supervisors, and adequate occupational health guidance. Workers with short-term leave more often reported favorable work conditions, and proactive coping behavior. In contrast, the long-term group reported reactive
coping behavior and dissatisfaction with their work.

Conclusion:
Supporting workers with CMDs in gaining self-awareness and regaining control, discussing the value of their work, and creating work conditions that enable workers to do valuable work, seem central for successful RTW and might prevent sickness absence. Supervisors play a key role in enabling workers to do valuable work and further research should focus on how supervisors can be supported in this task.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • Barriers and facilitators
  • CARE
  • CONCEPTUALIZATION
  • EMPLOYEES
  • HEALTH
  • INTERVENTION
  • Mental health
  • OUTCOMES
  • PEOPLE
  • Return-to-work
  • Sick leave
  • TRAJECTORIES
  • Work disability prevention
  • Workers' perspective

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