Challenges related to worker characteristics in the workplace for people with mental illness, as rated by employees with and without mental illness

Danielle Mary Michael, Jonathan James Wright

Abstract


Introduction: Research on the workplace accommodation of people with a mental illness, considering their needs,
abilities, and the required work competencies, is limited. Perceptions of which worker characteristics limit the abilities of
those with mental illness in the workplace may influence both the understanding of accommodations required in terms
of the work as well as the capabilities of these employees. This study, conducted in South Africa, aimed to determine
how employees with and without a mental illness, employed in different work sectors, rated the likelihood that worker
characteristics present a challenge in the workplace for people with mental illness.
Method: A quantitative, descriptive, cross-sectional design was used. An online questionnaire was completed by 271
participants with a mental illness and 455 without a mental illness. Participants were employed in the public, business,
retail, manufacturing, and construction sectors. The impacts of work sector, gender and age were examined.
Results: There was a significant difference (p<0.05) for all 38 worker characteristics in the ratings between participants
with and without mental illness. Work sector, age and gender contributed to this difference: Ratings only differed
significantly in the construction sector on 19 characteristics, for the age group 35-46 years on 16 characteristics, and for
males on 5 characteristics.
Conclusion: People who do not have a mental illness rate the challenge presented by worker characteristics in
those with mental illness differently from people who do have a mental illness. This may impact perceptions of work
accommodations required.

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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