Stress-induced exhaustion disorder (SED) is a primary cause for sickness absence among persons with mental health disorders in Sweden. Interventions involving the workplace, and supporting communication between the employee and the supervisor, are proposed to facilitate return to work (RTW). The aim of this study was to explore experiences of persons with SED who participated in a dialogue-based workplace intervention with a convergence dialogue meeting performed by a rehabilitation coordinator.
A qualitative design based on group interviews with 15 persons with SED who participated in a 24-week multimodal rehabilitation program was used. The interviews were analyzed with the methodology of grounded theory.
The analysis resulted in a theoretical model where the core category, restoring confidence on common ground, represented a health promoting process that included three phases: emotional entrance, supportive guidance, and empowering change. The health promoting process was represented in participant experiences of personal progress and safety in RTW.
The intervention built on a health-promoting pedagogy, supported by continuous guidance from a rehabilitation coordinator and structured convergence dialogue meetings that enhanced common communication and collaboration with the supervisor and others involved in the RTW process. The intervention balanced relationships, transferred knowledge, and changed attitudes about SED among supervisors and colleagues in the workplace. The inclusion of a rehabilitation coordinator in the intervention was beneficial by enhancing RTW and bridging the gaps between healthcare, the workplace, and other organizational structures. In addition, the intervention contributed to a positive re-orientation towards successful RTW instead of an endpoint of employment. In a prolonged process, a dialogue-based workplace intervention with convergence dialogue meetings and a rehabilitation coordinator may support sustainable RTW for persons with SED.