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WorkingWell: Developing a Mobile Employment Support Tool for Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities

Funding Source

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDDR), H133G140089

Project Period

10/1/14 - 9/30/18

Principal Investigator

Joanne Nicholson, PhD

Other Project Staff

Sarah E. Lord, PhD (Co-I); Justin Tauscher, MS, LADC, LCMHC

Project Summary

In this intervention development project we examine the feasibility and acceptability of WorkingWell, an innovative mobile employment support tool for individuals with severe psychiatric disabilities, who constitute a large and underserved population in need of vocational rehabilitation services. WorkingWell will be based on the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment. Despite strong evidence that IPS successfully connects individuals to competitive employment, studies suggest that individuals may benefit from additional follow-up support to sustain employment. Mobile communication devices and cloud computing may be the most effective, least expensive, and most non-stigmatizing way to provide follow-up support to the broadest group of individuals in the work place.

WorkingWell will target three key autonomy-supportive constructs derived from Self-Determination Theory and previous research to help people succeed in employment: engage (identifying personal motivation to work), manage (setting goals, assessing progress, and building self-efficacy), and connect (linking to social supports). The specific aims of the WorkingWell project include: (1) to develop the information architecture, functionality, technical specifications and general design for the WorkingWell prototype via iterative, user-centered design including focus groups of users and employment specialists, and expert review; (2) to develop the fully functional WorkingWell prototype using state-of-the-art processes informed by iterative, formative testing of the usability, accessibility and acceptability of prototype components; and (3) to test the acceptance and feasibility of WorkingWell through (a) a 6-month pretest-posttest demonstration field test with individuals receiving IPS, (b) usage metrics, and (b) post-implementation feedback interviews with a purposive sample of users and employment specialists. We hypothesize that use of the WorkingWell tool, by focusing on engaging, managing, and connecting in the workplace, will contribute to positive changes in motivation, self-efficacy, and social support, and will enhance job tenure.

WorkingWell will offer users an innovative, easy-to-access, self-directed and individualized employment support tool available where and when the user needs it, for as long as he or she needs it. Our goal is to create a validated application that can be easily installed onto a mobile phone, facilitating wide-scale and far-reaching dissemination of IPS and follow-up support for the target population of individuals with severe psychiatric disabilities.