In in two previous posts, I described the typical sequence of events that surround a workplace leave for psychological distress. I remarked on how the current system of handling such leaves is unsatisfying for the insuracne carrier, the employer, co-workers and most importantly, the stressed worker.
I agree that the medicalization of the process with it’s attendant focus on confidentiality removes the potential for adaptative change.
How cold things improve?
What I propose is something less medical and something more focused solving the original problems. Instead of obscuring the problems under a veil of patient confidentiality, there needs to be a frank discussion of all the issues that contributes to the problem. Instead of focusing just on the patient, we need to enlarge the scope to look at the workers organizational unit, the style of leadership, job design etc. Instead of focusing on the patients compliance in taking medication, we made to make the worker, in collaboration with company change agents, an active problem-solver.
Psychological disability claims should be viewed as beacons of potential company dysfunction. Claims should never be judged as invalid, problems are problems even if produced by subjective perception. Creative solutions should be found from management, union, worker and HR perspectives. Solutions could include such things a job re-designs, employee training, encouragement of recognition and rewards in the workplace etc.
Only as a last resort should employees be removed from the workplace without a plan for returning. In my opinion, sometimes a short rest can be helpful but a leave should never be discussed without a planned return to some company function. Leaving workers disconnected at home incubates fear about returning and reducing employee confidence about executing their tasks.