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Title: An exploratory study of the factors influencing individuals' recovery and ability to return to work after experiencing stress, burnout, anxiety or depression
Author: Bizama, María Alicia Peña
ISNI:       0000 0004 2701 4488
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2010
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The aim of the research was to identify the key factors that helped or hindered individuals' efforts to return to work after having been off work due to stress, burnout, anxiety or depression. The purpose was to develop understanding of the return-to-work process to provide individuals with appropriate support to increase their ability to return to work and reduce long-term absence. In order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the return-to-work process, individuals' perspective and the employers' perspectives (through HR managers, Occupational Health professionals) were explored. A mixed methods methodology was used - a qualitative study followed by a quantitative study. Participants in the qualitative study were clients referred by their employer for psychological support while absent from work. They had gone through a return-to-work process facilitated by the researcher (Occupational psychologist) when working with an independent organisation. A total of 11 participants volunteered - 6 women and 5 men - and a semistructured interview was designed to collect data regarding their experience of ill health, recovery and their experience of the return-to-work process. The data were analysed using Grounded Theory. The organisational perspective was represented through the views of HR managers and Occupational Health professionals regarding the factors that raised their awareness of individuals' need for support. This quantitative study used an online questionnaire designed for the purpose of collecting data on the factors that influenced their decision to provide support and the obstacles they encountered. Findings from the qualitative research indicated that the main factors hindering individuals' recovery were a lack of understanding of their condition, not feeling understood, uncertainty about their recovery of normal functioning, and the stigma related to mental health problems. The main factors hindering individuals' ability to return to work were conflictive communication with their employers were collaboration was difficult to establish, a lack of appropriate organisational support, and not having their return-to-work process tailored to individual needs. These factors limited participants' help-seeking behaviour leading to ill health and prolonged absence from work. Findings from the quantitative research indicated that HR managers and Occupational Health professionals regarded the seriousness of individuals' condition and their willingness to engage in support, the need to implement policies, and the participation of the line manager in the return-to-work process as important factors influencing their decision to provide support. Findings indicated that the key factors promoting individuals' recovery and ability to return to work were: positive communication with the manager, understanding the impact of condition (burnout) on health and recovery, acknowledging and communicating the experience of illness and rehabilitation, participating in the design of a tailored return-to-work plan and restoring physical and mental health. A case management approach was adopted where psychological support was provided to help individuals restore their health and an open communication process was established facilitating the development of collaboration between both parties. Findings indicated this process enabled individuals to return to work. Implications for practice and recommendations are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Occ.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available