Developing the WorkingWell Mobile App to Promote Job Tenure for Individuals With Serious Mental Illnesses

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Objective: Individuals living with serious mental illnesses are key stakeholders in user experience design and the development of the WorkingWell mobile app to enhance on-the-job follow-along support. In this study, Individual Placement and Support (IPS) consumers identify challenges in sustaining employment, provide data regarding their use of technology, and suggest technology-based solutions for coping on the job to inform app development. Method: Focus groups were conducted in 3 agencies providing IPS services to examine consumers’ perspectives on supported employment, work, and their preferences for technology-based supports. Qualitative data were coded thematically in a multistep, collaborate approach to ensure trustworthiness. Survey data were collected to describe participants and their current technology use; these data were analyzed descriptively. Results: A total of 25 IPS consumers reported work challenges related to interpersonal relationships and social situations; job characteristics, tasks, and expectations; illness- and treatment-related issues; lifestyle/wellness and conditions apart from work; and motivation. The majority owned mobile phones, felt comfortable using technology, and could see how technology-based tools could help sustain employment. Participants highlighted the potential benefits of technology-based supports for work challenges, and underscored the potential for independence and empowerment as a consequence. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Study findings suggest the value of a WorkingWell mobile app that is innovative, easy to access, self-directed, and individually tailored to enhance IPS follow-along support. The WorkingWell app, if proven effective, will provide an empowering set of tools designed with input from individuals with serious mental illnesses, and integrated into a single, accessible interface.

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