Occupational health research round-up: August 2019

Employee assistance programmes - a call centre taking calls from employees

EAPs aid positive clinical and workplace outcomes

A study of a Canadian employee assistance programme (EAP) has produced evidence to support a link between EAP provision and a number of positive clinical and workplace outcomes. The 304 participants in the study worked at different organisations but all had access to the employer-based service, including up to 12 counselling hours a year. The study finds that, at the six month follow-up, those employees who had used the EAP had significantly reduced psychological distress, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared with non-EAP users. EAP users also had less presenteeism and work distress, increased work engagement and greater life satisfaction.

M Milot. “The impact of a Canadian external employee assistance program on mental health and workplace functioning: findings from a prospective quasi-experimental study”, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, published online 11 June 2019.

Managing mental health disorders in the NHS workforce

Around a quarter of sickness absence among UK NHS workers is attributable to common mental health disorders (CMHDs), but little is known about the occupational health management of those taking CMHD-related sick leave. This study is based on 49 OH departments in NHS organisations, the vast majority of which use trigger points in the absence policy to refer staff absent due to CMHDs to the OH service. Just over 60% of NHS absence policies use a trigger between eight and 28 days from the start of absence to initiate a referral; however, relatively few subsequently use case management and regular, ongoing reviews of individuals off sick due to CMHDs, despite evidence on the effectiveness of this approach. This prompts the authors of the research to conclude: “Our findings suggest that current evidence-based guidance on interventions to improve return to work is not being implemented consistently.”

B See et al. “Managing common mental health disorders in healthcare workers”, Occupational Medicine, published online 14 May 2019.

Leadership style linked to managers’ wellbeing

There is “considerable” linkage between the wellbeing of managers and their leadership style, according to this study of different leadership behaviours and wellbeing indicators. The results confirm significant relationships between both constructive and destructive leadership and managers’ own wellbeing in the expected direction. For example, active destructive leadership (typically abusive supervision) showed a stronger negative association with managers’ wellbeing than a passive, laissez faire style.

A J Kaluza et al. “Leadership behaviour and leader self-reported well-being: a review, integration and meta-analytic examination”, Work & Stress, published online 20 May 2019.

Type 2 diabetes and depression

Workers with newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetes (T2D), who also reported depressive symptoms at the time of diagnosis, are more likely to exit the workforce over the following two years, according to this study of 1,202 people of working age. After adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and diabetes control/treatment for depression, depression amongst full-time workers at T2D diagnosis was associated with worsening unemployment over the following two years. Depressive symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes is also associated with worsening presenteeism over the same period, the study concludes.

C D Moulton et al. “Depression and change in occupational functioning in type 2 diabetes”, Occupational Medicine, published online 14 May 2019.

Workplace interventions for intimate partner violence

The workplace is a potentially beneficial setting in which to develop interventions for intimate partner violence (IPV), according to this systematic review of the available evidence. Although it only identifies six studies evaluating five workplace interventions (none of which address perpetrators of IPV), the review concludes that all the studies report at least one intervention-related benefit. The interventions it examines focus on recognising signs of abuse, responding to victims and providing referrals to community-based resources. Outcomes of effective interventions include an improved awareness of IPV in the workplace, increased provision of information to victims and a greater willingness on the part of the organisation to intervene if an employee may be experiencing IPV.

A Adhia et al. “Workplace interventions for intimate partner violence: a systematic review”, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, published online 30 May 2019.

Care workers’ experiences of verbal abuse in clients’ homes

Violence from care recipients and their family members is a serious occupational hazard for healthcare and social care workers, and this survey seeks to assess the risk amongst those working specifically in clients’ homes. Just over a fifth of the 954 care workers in the survey reported at least one incident of verbal abuse in the 12 months leading up to the research. Three factors increased the risk of verbal abuse: clients with dementia, homes with too little space for the carer to work, and predictable working hours. Care workers reporting verbal abuse were 11 times as likely to also report physical abuse.

N D Karlsson et al. “Home care aides’ experiences of verbal abuse: a survey of characteristics and risk factors”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 11 June 2019.

Muscle resistance training and MSDs

A workplace-delivered muscle resistance training programme can help in the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) according to this randomised controlled trial in a manufacturing setting. However, employers must initially adopt mechanisms to minimise workers’ exposure as part of a prevention strategy, the authors conclude. The 120 healthy workers in the study were allocated to either a group receiving a resistance-based exercise programme, or a control group which performed stretching exercises. The muscle resistance training exercise had a protective effect on the intensity of the pain perceived by workers in their upper limbs compared with the control group.

C Munoz-Poblete et al. “Effectiveness of workplace-based muscle resistance training exercise program in preventing musculoskeletal dysfunction of the upper limbs in manufacturing workers”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published online 10 June 2019.

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