Okanagan Health & Wellness Magazine Fall 2013

Page 33

Wellness and family assistance counselling programs are often available, while other counselling services may be provided through the employer’s extended health benefits. If a claim has been accepted by Worksafe BC, counselling services may be provided. Provincial mental health services are also available. Counselling methods that focus on managing emotions, altering problematic thinking patterns and increasing interpersonal skills have proven to be good tools for successfully dealing with work and personal stressors. Innovative treatments such as heart rate biofeedback are very effective for stress management. Specific trauma-based counselling treatments are useful if employees have been exposed to trauma at work or in their personal lives. Intensive residential programs for trauma sufferers are now available. What about the employer? Some organizations contract with

disability management firms to provide support before and during the returnto-work period. Some companies have internal return-to-work coordinators. If interpersonal stress in the workplace is related to an employee’s stress leave, mediation services between the worker and others in the organization may be arranged to ease the employee’s transition back to work. Return-to-work programs often include a graduated return to work over weeks or months. If an employee has been diagnosed with a psychological condition, the employer has a legal obligation to modify the responsibilities of the worker. There is a risk of a failed return to work if an employee returns before he or she is psychologically ready. Employees who return to work prematurely are more likely to relapse and may have to take another stress leave, often for a longer duration. Some employees return too early due to internal expectations, financial stresses or pressure from the employer

or insurance companies. Are there cheaters? Of course. But only a very small proportion of employees exaggerate their symptoms in order to avoid work and collect benefits. Unfortunately, those suffering from psychological conditions tend to arouse more suspicion than those with medical conditions, often unfairly. So how do employees, and employers, reduce the incidence of stress leave? It is important for employers and employees to communicate about workplace issues, as well as stress management and mental health issues. Studies have shown that employers who have provided stress management courses for employees have benefitted from decreases in sick time and stress leave. Employee counselling and employee wellness programs have also been shown to reduce sick time while teambuilding programs have been shown to reduce organizational work stress while increasing morale and productivity. n

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Fall ‘13 - Okanagan Health & Wellness Magazine 33