Work trials can be an incredibly positive way to help clients understand their work capacity, practise their skills, and develop their knowledge in preparation for paid employment.
Here at PurpleCo, we’ve recently had great success with a work trial that didn’t even become a work trial.
We have been working with a young lady who is 31 years of age and sustained a head injury following a motorbike accident. As a result of this head injury, she was left with some cognitive difficulties, and also has some weakness and dysfunction in her right and dominant side. This has made returning to work or even the thought of returning to work, quite alarming and distressing for her. She’s in Australia on a student visa, with the desire to be able to provide not only for herself here in Australia, but also send money to her family of origin.
The poor function in her right and dominant hand side was always a concern for us. We investigated how to assist with her aids and equipment. She continued to be distressed about not working, and was applying for jobs that were not going to be physically sustainable in the long term. Jobs that required lots of forceful gripping, carrying, stooping, bending, carrying items of varying weight and sizes. We could sense that this was not necessarily going to end well for her. It was quite clear that work is a very significant part of her life and that she felt pressured by her own sense of self and also of her family obligations to return to paid employment.
We identified that this lady would benefit from a work trial where her recovery ceased being theoretical and became very practical. We found a host employer who was willing to help us with a graduated exposure to work tasks, where there was no pressure for performance. This employer knew that this would not result in paid employment but would be an opportunity for us to help this young lady test her capabilities, practice skills and teach her how to use specific equipment to improve her function, particularly in an administrative position.
This lady has come from a bookkeeping and accounting background, so moving into an administrative type of role made sense for her. However, with her cognitive difficulties and right sided functional imitations, along with her emotional responses , we understood that we needed to test her out in a real work environment so that we could address not only her functional capacity but also her cognitive and emotional capacity as well. There were a series of interviews, the employer initially was incredibly supportive of a work trial opportunity, however this was not without the need for negotiation and re negotiation.
While host employer negotiations continued, our client completed an Occupational Therapy assessment to teach her how to use specific equipment to improve hey keyboarding skills. She practiced using new hard wear at home, while attending for three interviews with the host employer. During this time her confidence in her capacity with technology, along with the practise of being in a workplace; attending for interviews, negotiating work hours, etc, increased her confidence to such a level where she has now gone and secured part-time employment of her own volition in a data entry capacity.
Being able to secure her own paid employment was incredibly important for this client.
This new role is much more physically and cognitively appropriate for her. We as a team were thrilled. What we had not understood was that applying for work and attending an interview in Australian was unfamiliar to her, and that in participating in interviews, learning how to answer questions and having the confidence to ask questions was new for her. She had been empowered to do this for herself.
So, we did not even need to execute the work trial. The process of getting ready for a work trial, the application of rehabilitation counselling and skills development, coupled with occupational therapy and exposure to real workplaces, afforded this young lady with the knowledge, skills and confidence to be able to go and negotiate her own part-time employment. She has been so grateful for the experience that she has had with us, that she apologised that she wouldn’t be able to take up the offer of the work trial, and then simply asked if she could use the equipment that we had provided to her, in her new place of employment.
We are looking forward to working with her over the coming months to make sure that this employment is sustainable and allows her to be able to progress her income capacity and being able to support her family.
This is why work trials are so important. It’s not getting a job, it’s growing in confidence to do work and navigate the job search process.
Who Is Jo Muirhead?
Jo is all about connecting people to purpose through inspiration and innovation. She is the Founder, Director and Principal Consultant of Purple Co (www.PurpleCo.com.au), a team of specialist allied health consultants dedicated to helping people who experience injury illness and trauma reclaim their lives through work. Jo is passionate about the health benefits of work and truly believes that everyone has the right to meaningful and rewarding employment. Purple Co grew out of this belief as a truncated form of PURpose for peoPLE.
The Purple Co team also provide a range of career development and coaching services to professionals who are ready to explore change in their career and find the map towards career fulfilment.