Supervisors’ Perception of the Factors Influencing the Return to Work of Workers with Common Mental Disorders


Introduction Over the last decade, common mental disorders have become an area of major concern in the field of work disability prevention due to the rising number of claims, costs, and impacts on quality of life. It has been shown that supervisory behavior influences return-to-work outcomes. This study aimed to investigate the perception held by supervisors involved in work disability management, of the factors facilitating or hindering the return to work of workers with common mental disorders. Methods This project consisted of an exploratory qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted of supervisors. All subjects had experience with the return to work of at least one worker who had been off work due to a common mental disorder (i.e., anxiety, mood or adjustment disorder). Content analysis of the transcripts was performed. Results A total of 11 supervisors from large and medium-sized companies participated in the project. Twenty-four factors that could hinder or facilitate the return-to-work process were found and classified into three main categories: factors related to the worker, work context, and return-to-work process. Conclusions This study brought to light several factors influencing the return to work of workers with common mental disorders. Most of the supervisors interviewed were very open to finding ways to facilitate the return to work of these workers, but felt that the interventions used should take both their perspective and the constraints they face in the workplace into account. Subsequent studies on return to work should therefore focus equally on the individual and the workplace to ensure that the actions taken can be appropriately implemented and well received by all stakeholders, including supervisors, who are continually involved in front-line interventions.

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The authors wish to offer their warmest thanks to the supervisors who agreed to participate in this study and to the research assistants who participated in the data collection. Marie-José Durand is a senior research scholar of the Fonds de recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ). This research project was part of a broader study aimed at the development of an instrument for evaluating the work disability determinants of workers with common mental disorders, funded by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) (099-6550).

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Correspondence to Pierre Lemieux.

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Lemieux, P., Durand, M. & Hong, Q.N. Supervisors’ Perception of the Factors Influencing the Return to Work of Workers with Common Mental Disorders. J Occup Rehabil 21, 293–303 (2011).

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  • Return-to-work
  • Supervisors
  • Common mental disorders
  • Obstacles
  • Facilitators