3 tips to prevent absenteeism caused by mental health problems

Postdate: 24 April 2017

Tsuru works together with many leading experts in the field of mental and physical health and lifestyle. How do they look upon the theme of stress on the shop floor from the perspective of their own area of expertise? We interviewed Dr. Ruud van Langeveld (cardiologist connected to the Jeroen Bosch Hospital), Hardy Menkehorst (chairman of the Society of Sport Psychology Netherland and connected to many sport unions as a sport psychologist) and drs. Jessy Brouwers (clinical psychologist/psychotherapist and co-founder of Tsuru).

Jessy Brouwers: We may assume that someone who starts a new job wants to be successful. As this success increases, one gets more recognition and one feels happier. However, this might go wrong because of intrinsic (for instance: the company culture does not fit your personality) or extrinsic (for instance: the pressure at work is too high) circumstances. This is demotivating and causes stress which makes you lose lots of energy. You are only busy trying to survive and you have hardly any concentration to do that what you are hired for. If this takes too long, absenteeism caused by mental complaints lies in wait.

TIP 1: Grand employees a form of autonomy

Hardy Menkehorst: Research shows that a highly stressful and demanding job but with a lot of autonomy is far easier to continue. Autonomy comes in many shapes and starts with giving trust and responsibilities in projects or tasks however small they might be. Assigning a challenging task with some stress and a lot of autonomy is interesting for managers. One can develop and expand skills as long as you receive suggestions on how to do things differently.

Ruud van Langeveld: In my practice it also shows that the vast majority of physical complaints is stress related. Stress is an important factor and acknowledged cause of illness. Stress has positive sides but it shouldn't leads to physical complaints without illness like heart palpitations and hyperventilating. Headaches and the feeling of fainting are well known symptoms of stress.

Jessy Brouwers: Ruud is right; stress can have its beneficial side. For instance, it makes you more alert to meet a deadline or before an important presentation. But if you are exposed to stress for a long time you run the risk of physical complaints, even after the cause of the stress is long gone. It is with good reason that in order to measure stress we ask for the physical symptoms of stress. When you experience several physical complaints: insomnia, stomach and intestinal problems and a high vulnerability to illness, this to us is often a sign of excessive stress.

Your brain is like a muscle. Just as in sport it weakens when it is not used and it gets overstrained if it is burdened too much or for too long.

Hardy Menkehorst: In top sport it is very common to have a day rest in between active training sessions. If not, you are guaranteed to get injured through overload. Surely now a days when we can get to our e mails at any time it is far more difficult to really break free from work and recharge our batteries. People go home on Friday end of the day, cannot be reached on the Saturday and Sunday afternoon they start to recuperate. At 18.00 hour they think “I have to work again tomorrow”. At a certain moment they go to work on Monday without being recuperated. Subsequently they cannot sleep Monday night and the following nights. Finally, they get physical complaints. It works as a vicious circle.

TIP 2: Stimulate physical movement during and after work.

Ruud van Langeveld: Make sure that as an employer you actively contribute to the physical health of employees. Employees become fitter and take a distance from work consciously. When colleagues sport together it will contribute to their team spirit. Let them choose themselves, not everybody likes to run the marathon. A daily walk during lunch can have a lot of impact.

Jessy Brouwers: One of the most important things psychologists do is look at people and their behaviour not from their own interpretation but objectively. This is something you have to learn. What is important in general is to notice, to inform well and to be open-minded. Do not be judgmental, but try to listen to what is really going on.

TIP 3: Stimulate employees to take control over their own psychic health.

Jessy Brouwers: Formulating the problem is the first step towards the solution. This kicks off a process of self consciousness which is necessary to map possible stress factors. Followed by determining small steps towards the desired situation. You will see employees begin to move literally and figuratively and take control over their own well being. This alone will make them feel better.

Ruud van Langeveld: It is important to take your employees who have health issues seriously, including stress. Listen to them and stimulate them to take charge of their own health. If an employee indicates to experience stress or not to feel well, you can ask a simple question: ‘What are you going to do about it?’ This way you hold up a mirror to them. Find the right tone of voice to challenge the employee to work on a solution himself. I do that as a physician with my patients as well.

A possible tool for this is Tsuru. The Tsuru App is a personal, digital coach, which offers employees ways to take control over their own health. We teach them how to make sound and healthy choices: whether it is about dealing with stress, sleep or how to make more of their work. For the employer we have the Tsuru Management Dashboard. This serves as a kind of thermometer in the organisation, a tool to visualise data about motivation, wellness, and health and to warn objectively.

Tsuru is a mobile daily coach for employees and a dashboard for employers. Tsuru is personal, holistic and evidence based. The founders, together with a group of medical specialists and scientists, have spend over four years in the development of an algorithmic model. The profiling as well as the coaching program is based on techniques which are used in psychotherapeutic settings.


absenteeism     autonomy     employees     health     physical complaints     work stress    


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