Employers may be interested to learn that phone counseling programs targeted at depressed workers can help both their employees and their business by improving worker productivity and keeping costs down.
A study, published in the the February 2012 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, evaluated a program in Maine called the Work and Health Initiative. In the study, government employees with depression and reduced job productivity were randomly assigned to either the WHI program or usual care.
The WHI’s phone counseling program involved coaching which targeted work problems related to depression, coordination of care with the patients’ doctors and cognitive-behavioral therapy strategies to help change depression-related thoughts and behaviors that were interfering with the patient’s daily functioning.
The researchers found that over the course of eight weeks those who participated in the WHI phone counseling program had increased productivity and missed fewer work days, which led to cost savings for the employer.
Those who participated in the WHI also had better results than those receiving usual care.
These results may have occurred because the WHI program put an emphasis on returning the employees to effective functioning in their jobs rather than simply concentrating on the medical aspects of depression treatment, say the authors.
While more research is needed in this area, the authors suggest that the WHI represents a shift away “from a strictly biomedical to a functional paradigm” in depression treatment.