Furthermore, those relapses had no adverse affects on mental health over the course of a year, which may mean participants in the work-focused group were simply being more experimental in their attempts to return, the authors write. No matter which type of therapy they received, all participants reported fewer mental health problems over the course of their treatment.
The job-related therapy group’s quicker return carried significant financial advantages for employers, the authors write. On average, employers in the standard treatment group paid $24,220 in wages per employee during the sick leave period. By contrast, employers in the work-focused group paid out $18,952, saving more than $5,200.
This implies a savings of more than 20 percent for employers whose workers receive job-related therapy, the authors note, without factoring in associated costs such as productivity loss and the hiring of replacements. Overall, the savings could be huge, given the prevalence of absenteeism related to psychological issues. (A 2007 report, for example, found that mental disorders account for 30 percent of the long-term sick leave in the Netherlands.)
The results of their work can be applied widely, the authors write, because of the variety of mental health complaints and range of jobs that were studied. In addition, they say, the focus on work can be integrated easily, and at relatively low cost, into conventional psychological therapy, providing “a fruitful approach with benefits for employees, employers, and care providers.”
Employees who are on sick leave because of mental health problems return to work more quickly if they receive therapy that includes a focus on work-related issues instead of standard treatment. The shorter time away produces significant savings for employers.