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Obstacles for Workers

Advice and Facts for Workers with Common Health Problems


Muscle and joint problems, stress, anxiety, depression


Helping you stay active and working


Important information

  • Activity and work are good for physical and mental health

  • Physical problems (such as muscle and joint aches) and psychological problems (such as feeling stressed or down) are very common – pretty much everyone has them at some stage during their life

  • These problems can be distressing and may make life difficult for a while

  • Serious disease or injury with lasting damage is very rare

  • Most episodes settle quickly, but the symptoms may crop up again

  • It’s best to stay active and continue working, or get back soon


Identify obstacles to your recovery

Various things can get in the way of recovery and getting back to work and activity

Personal obstacles involve how you feel and think

  • Unhelpful attitudes and beliefs about health and work

  • Uncertainty

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Loss of routine and work habits


Work-related obstacles can block your return to work

  • Loss of contact with work

  • Negative attitudes by people at work

  • Lack of job accommodations or modified work

  • Misunderstandings and disagreements between you, your employer, and doctor/therapist


Health-related obstacles can confuse and delay

  • Conflicting advice

  • Waiting lists

  • Prolonged sick leave

  • Ineffective treatments


Warning signs to watch out for


You are unlikely to recover and return to work if you

➜ Believe there is something seriously wrong

➜ Are unable to accept reassurance and help

➜ Avoid activity in case it makes things worse

➜ Get withdrawn and depressed

➜ Are fearful and uncertain about going back to work


The longer you are off work or not doing your usual activities, the harder it is to get back


Make a plan to be active and working


The key is communication and action. There are two main issues:


(1) Recovery depends on working with the health professionals who are helping you, and on your own motivation and effort. Treatment can help to reduce your symptoms, but you are the one who has to get active – see activity as part of your treatment


Ask yourself: What can I do to be a ‘coper’ and not an ‘avoider’?


(2) Returning to work depends on you and your employer working together, and that needs communication. The key thing is to stay in touch with the people at work – figure out what’s needed to help you return


Ask yourself: What obstacles are getting in the way of my going back to work, and who do I need to talk to about overcoming these (through problem-solving and negotiation)




Put your plan into action


Take control - Take responsibility for your recovery, making best use of available help

Set realistic goals - Give yourself a clear timeline for getting back to work and activity. Use weeks, not months


List what you can do - Have a ‘can-do’ approach, and avoid dwelling on what you can’t do easily at present. You’ll find you can do a lot of things – at work and leisure


Talk with your health professional – Discuss what you can do: work out ways to get active and back to work. Give them permission to talk with your employer


Increase activity – Do a little more each day for a little longer. Pace yourself: do no more on good days and no less on bad days


Changing your attitude and improving motivation – Don’t get gloomy or anxious. Getting active will improve your confidence and you’ll feel more positive

Talk with your employer – If your employer has not been in touch, make the first move. Temporary changes to your job are one of the best ways of making it possible to get back to work: sort out what’s needed with your line manager

Put it all together – Make sure that you and your doctor and your employer all know what is happening and what you are planning. Tell them you want help to be a coper.


Don't just think about it. Just do it!

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