Supportive managers key to recovery from ill health

Supportive managers key to recovery from ill health

Employees who have supportive managers and colleagues are more likely to make a successful return to work after a period of sickness absence, according to a new review of research.

Two people discussing mental health

The review evaluated the impact of personal and social factors on sustainable returns to work after ill health due to musculoskeletal disorders, such as joint and back pain, and common mental health conditions, such as stress, depression or anxiety. These two types of conditions are the most common causes of sickness absence in developed countries.

Sustainable return to work and recovery from illness do not appear to be the result of a single factor, the study found, but instead influenced by multiple things.

These include economic status and income; the length of the employees’ sickness absence; the nature of their job contract and employment security; and the quality of the of the job, for example the employee’s work-life balance and the extent to which they have say they have in how their work is done.

The researchers from the University of East Anglia and Uppsala University in Sweden said it was essential that employers promote a workplace culture of support which makes returning workers feel valued, worthy and not blamed for absence. 

The review examined evidence from 79 studies conducted between 1989 and 2017. Its findings were published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation.

The authors said the review provides employers and policymakers with knowledge of the key factors to help them implement more effective return to work programmes.