Summary of research findings

A new report has identified many tools to help people recover from mental health conditions at work. And while few tools had been academically evaluated, they generally had positive effects.

Research aims

SIRA commissioned the Recovery at Work Support Tools Rapid Review to inform the mental health recovery at work program it is developing in support of the NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy 2018-2022.

The research aimed to:

  • identify existing tools to help people stay in touch with the workplace when absent from work and experiencing mental distress
  • encourage and enable recovery at work and return to work for those experiencing mental distress1
  • identify tools to empower individuals, business leaders and service providers to facilitate recovery at work or return to work for mental health after mental distress.

Common advice

Tools rated positively in the study generally recommended:

  • reducing the stigma around mental health at work
  • developing a mental health policy
  • recognising mental health symptoms and addressing the causes, where possible
  • working collaboratively to support recovery at work or return to work
  • staying connected and keeping in touch
  • maintaining confidentiality and trust

The tools commonly advised business leaders to consider flexible working arrangements, workplace modifications, reviewed job expectations, realistic goal-setting and task lists as ways to encourage recovery at or return to work.

Other research

The study by Monash University also highlighted tools that had been evaluated and shown promising results, such as:

  • MATES in Construction – a prevention and early intervention program – that targets construction workers at risk of suicide in Queensland.
  • the READY tool to help Australian workers decide if they should disclose their mental health condition at work
  • ECO Return to Work, a guided e-health intervention module that encourages sick-listed workers to return to work in the Netherlands.

Best rated tools

The report identified the following tools as being the easiest to access, understand and use, as well as many others it rated almost as good.

For everyone

For individuals

  • Sane Australia’s Getting back to work has advice to help a person prepare to return to work with a mental health condition. It includes case studies, a checklist, and information on how to disclose the condition.

For business leaders

For health providers

[1] The report uses ‘mental distress’ to capture various mental health conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, symptoms of depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.