19 July 2023 posted by Recovery Partners

Employees’ experience of supervisor behaviour–a support or a hindrance on their return-to-work journey with a CMD?

Mental health issues, such as common mental disorders (CMDs), are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, affecting employees’ well-being, job performance, and productivity. It is critical to understand the factors that may facilitate or hinder employees’ return to work (RTW) after experiencing CMD. Supervisor support is one such factor that may play a vital role in the RTW journey of employees.

What they tested

The study aimed to investigate the impact of supervisor behaviour on employees’ RTW journey with CMD. The researchers wanted to understand how employees perceive and experience supervisor support or hindrance during their RTW journey. They also examined how the employees’ perceptions of supervisor behaviour affected their RTW outcomes.

How they tested it

The researchers conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with 21 employees who had experienced CMD and had returned to work. The participants were recruited from different workplaces and industries in Australia. The interviews were transcribed and analysed thematically to identify common themes related to supervisor behaviour and RTW journey with CMD.

What they found

The study found that employees’ experiences of supervisor behaviour varied in their impact on the RTW journey with CMD. Supportive supervisor behaviour, such as providing flexible work arrangements, emotional support, and encouragement, facilitated the RTW process and enhanced employees’ well-being. On the other hand, hindering supervisor behaviour, such as lack of understanding, lack of support, and inappropriate comments, impeded the RTW process and had negative effects on employees’ well-being.

The study also revealed that employees’ perceptions of supervisor behaviour affected their RTW outcomes. Employees who perceived their supervisors as supportive had better RTW outcomes, such as improved job performance and job satisfaction, than those who perceived their supervisors as hindering.

What does this mean for individuals

The findings suggest that employees with CMDs benefit from supportive supervisor behaviour during the RTW process. Employees can benefit from open communication, flexibility, empathy, and practical support from their supervisors. Additionally, negative experiences with supervisors can have detrimental effects on employees’ mental health, making the RTW process more challenging. Therefore, it is important for employees to have access to support services and resources to help them manage the RTW process.

What does this mean for Australian Return To Work Coordinators

Return to Work Coordinators can play an important role in promoting supportive supervisor behaviour during the RTW process. Coordinators can educate supervisors on the importance of open communication, flexibility, empathy, and practical support for employees with CMDs. Additionally, coordinators can provide supervisors with resources and support to help them manage employees’ RTW process effectively.

What does this mean for personal injury insurers in Australia

Personal injury insurers can also play an important role in supporting employees with CMDs during the RTW process. Insurers can promote the importance of supportive supervisor behaviour in RTW programs and provide funding for resources and support services to help employees manage the RTW process effectively. Additionally, insurers can work with employers and coordinators to ensure that employees with CMDs receive appropriate support and resources throughout the RTW process.

Supervisory style

Below is an overview of the Return to Work journey for employees with compassionate, indifferent or demeaning supervisors.

The compassionate supervisor

The indifferent supervisor

The demeaning supervisor

In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of supportive supervisor behaviour in the RTW process for employees with CMDs. Employers, Return to Work Coordinators, and personal injury insurers can play an important role in promoting supportive supervisor behaviour and providing resources and support to help employees manage the RTW process effectively. 

By doing so, employees with CMDs can return to work in a safe and supportive environment, promoting their mental health and well-being.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/