The key to treating workers who have common job-related mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, may be as simple as crafting a work-related therapy routine. According to new research, employees who went to specialized therapy designed to specifically deal with work issues returned to full-time work 65 days sooner than workers who participated in traditional therapy.
The research also found that employees in work-related therapy returned to part-time work 12 days earlier than employees who went to traditional therapy. Additionally, 99 percent of employees who went to work-related therapy were able to return to work within one year.
The secret to this success comes from the fact that work-focused therapy helps employees to concentrate on work-related tasks and then return to the office, while traditional therapy treats workers by exposing them to difficult situations. Most importantly, work-related therapy offers structure to workers and boosted their self-esteem by highlighting the importance of work in their lives.
"People with depression or anxiety may take a lot of sick leave to address their problems," said lead author, Suzanne Lagerveld, of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. "However, focusing on how to return to work is not a standard part of therapy. This study shows that integrating return-to-work strategies into therapy leads to less time out of work with little to no compromise in people’s psychological well-being over the course of one year."
To prove these results, the researchers looked at 168 workers in the Netherlands, who were on medical leave because of common psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders. The researchers treated 79 workers using traditional therapy and the other 89 using work-related therapy. Workers in both groups received treatment in 12 sessions over six months.
"Being out of work has a direct effect on people’s well-being. Those who are unable to participate in work lose a valuable source of social support and interpersonal contacts," said Lagerveld. "They might lose part of their income and consequently tend to develop even more psychological symptoms. We’ve demonstrated that employees on sick leave with mental disorders can benefit from interventions that enable them to return to work."
However, the benefits of this research extended beyond the mental health of workers, as employers were able to save $5,275 per employee, thanks to their earlier return to work. (These savings were based only on the cost of sick leave and did not take into account lost productivity and costs to hire replacement workers, according to the research.)
This research was published online in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at Dmielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.