An exploratory study of the factors influencing individuals' recovery and ability to return to work after experiencing stress, burnout, anxiety or depression.

Prof Doc Thesis

Bizama, María Alicia Peña 2010. An exploratory study of the factors influencing individuals' recovery and ability to return to work after experiencing stress, burnout, anxiety or depression. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsBizama, María Alicia Peña
TypeProf Doc Thesis

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
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.

Publication dates
PrintNov 2010
Publication process dates
Deposited09 Jun 2014
Additional information

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