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People Factors
Pride, empowerment, and return to work

At a glance:
Being off work can make people feel isolated and ashamed. If an individual's self worth and confidence is lowered, returning to work is more difficult.
Being off work can be difficult. It might sound nice to have time away from the workplace, but for most people it's a negative experience. Apart from the fact that people on sick leave have a physical limitation and can't do the things they would like to do, they often the feel that others think badly about them because they are off work. Being off work can make people feel blamed and disgraced.

The aim of this paper is to make health professionals aware of the negative feelings commonly associated with being off work, which can make it harder to return to the workplace.
When a person feels bad about themself, they tend to avoid contact with others. They are more likely to try and avoid you and remain off work.

People who are off work, or not doing their pre-injury tasks can be sensitive to social interactions. Small things can make then feel ashamed. For example, co-workers can make jokes intended to be positive, but the outcome can be negative. Recognising that people usually feel bad when they are not doing their normal activities is important. Simple and sensible discussion can improve their self image and make them feel better.
Being off work can be difficult for many reasons. People may feel blamed or ashamed. Whilst these emotions may often be invisible, they are common in people who are on long-term sick leave and should be addressed. The authors of this study suggest that positive interactions that improve an individual's self-image can increase their sense of empowerment, and in turn improve their ability to return to work, particularly in challenging circumstances.
Being off work or on modified duties can make people to feel negative emotions. Being off work affects people in different ways; for some the negative social interactions can have a profound effect. Promoting a positive self-image can be important for an injured worker's rehabilitation.

Acknowledging these issues can help you to develop a relationship of trust with an injured worker. When people feel that they are understood they are more likely to work in a positive partnership.
Original Article, Authors & Publication Details:
Tommy Sveon a,c, Ulrika Mussenerb and Kristina Alexandersonb,d (2006)

Pride, empowerment, and return to work: On the significance of promoting positive social emotions among sickness absentees. . Work: Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation; 27(1):57-65.

aDepartment of Behavioural Sciences, Linkoping University, S-581 83 Linkoping, Sweden
bDivision of Social Medicine and Public Health, Department of Health and Society, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linkoping University, S-581 83 Linkoping, Sweden
cNordic School of Public Health, S-402 42, Goteborg, Sweden
dPersonal Injury Prevention, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Box 12718, S-112 94 Stockholm, Sweden
Background, Study Objectives, How It Was Done:
The authors of this paper suggest we do not fully understand what happens to people who remain off work because of a work-related condition.

The longer a person is on sick leave, the more difficult returning to work becomes, and it becomes increasingly likely that person will stay off work permanently. The authors suggest we need to understand the social and psychological
Refers to a person's perceptions, thought processes, emotions, personality and behaviour. Psychologists can treat mental health problems.
 consequences of being off work, and how they effect rehabilitation.

The aim of rehabilitation
The process of helping a person back to their former abilities and quality of life (or as close as possible) after injury or a medical condition.
 is to improve the person's ability to work and function in daily life. Other studies have indicated that how people who are off work are treated by rehabilitation and other health professionals influences whether they will successfully return to work.

The authors of this study explore the feelings of empowerment, pride, and shame in people on sickness absence, and how these feelings influence the rehabilitation process.

This study reviewed research about sick leave resulting from workplace injury to better understand what happens to a person when they are off work long-term. The authors aimed to improve rehabilitation professionals understanding of the issues, to help them to overcome any barriers to the rehabilitation process.
Study Findings:
Previous research has explored the emotional aspects of social interaction. Adults monitor themselves on a continuous basis in social circumstances. They form a belief about how others see them. How they believe others view them affects their emotions. When they consider other people think well of them, they feel pride and perceive themselves as successful, sufficient, adequate or well integrated. When they consider others see them as inadequate, unsuccessful, or unsuitable they feel shame.

Shame tends to make us want to hide, to withdraw from social interaction, to be alone, and to conceal our emotions. Pride makes us want to be seen, to interact more with others and to be closer to them.

They authors note that these emotions are often not obvious or visible. However, they can have a powerful influence on the individual, their interaction with others, self-esteem and recovery from injury.

Empowerment is a process by which people or organisations gain mastery over their lives. The person may develop actual control over the situation, or only a sense of control. Either way, the result is generally positive. Empowerment can be at an individual level (internal to the person) or it can be at a group or collective level.

Many people who are either off work or on long-term restricted duties suffer lowered self-esteem, sense of control and self determination. Social networks and family interaction are often lost, along with general participation in work life. Therefore being off work can cause a person to loose their sense of identity and place in society.

If a person on sick leave evaluates themselves by the way they believe others see them, they may feel ashamed for being off work. The person may perceive or experience negative interactions with those around them. Negative feelings, such as shame, from social interactions are thought to be stronger and more readily felt than positive emotions, such as pride.

When people feel shame they tend to withdraw into themselves, making rehabilitation more difficult. Rehabilitation in difficult circumstances pushes the injured person to extend themselves and may require sustained determination. In a situation where shame is the dominant emotion, the person is likely to feel disempowered.

In contrast, pride can help people to feel psychologically empowered, and assists in rehabilitation.

Interactions with rehabilitation and other health professionals that reduce hope and confidence and lower self-esteem are likely to be counterproductive to rehabilitation and return to work in the long term. The authors suggest there needs to be more research into how rehabilitation can foster positive emotions, social interaction and empowerment to improve the individual's abilities and outcomes.
The aim of this paper was to explore social emotions in the context of rehabilitation and return to work management. Self-evaluation and self-esteem may be hidden from everyday view, but are far more important in the rehabilitation process than previously recognised.
PubMed Abstract
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