The burden of managing musculoskeletal pain and injuries (MSDs) and mental health (MH) conditions in the workplace is substantial. While overall rates of work injury have declined in most high-income countries, there have not been equivalent improvements in return-to-work rates. The primary objective of this systematic review was to update and synthesize evidence on the effectiveness of workplace-based return- to -work (RTW) interventions that assist workers with MSD and MH
conditions with RTW after a period of work absence.
In this webinar, you will hear about the findings from a recent systematic review of the research on the effectiveness of workplace-based programs designed to help injured and ill workers return to work, published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. The review was co-led by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) based in Toronto, Canada, and the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) based in Melbourne, Australia.
The review found strong evidence for the effectiveness of workplace-based RTW programs in reducing time away from work due to musculoskeletal disorder s (MSDs) and other pain-related conditions when they incorporate practices or interventions in at least two of the three following areas:
- health services for injured workers provided at work or in settings linked to work (e.g. physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, medical assessments, graded-activity exercises, work hardening);
- RTW coordination (e.g. case management, RTW planning. improved communication with health-care providers);
- work modifications (e.g. job accommodations, ergonomic or other worksite adjustments, supervisor training on work modifications).
The review also found strong evidence for the effectiveness of work-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and strong evidence for the ineffectiveness of traditional CBT in reducing the lost time associated with mental health conditions .
The findings from the systematic review are based on the evidence found in 36 medium- and high-quality studies published between January 1990 and April 2015. The studies address the effectiveness of workplace-based interventions in the return to work of workers with MSDs, other pain-related conditions or mental health conditions.
Director of Research Operations at the Institute for Work & Health
Emma Irvin is the director of Research Operations at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), where she oversees research planning, research operations, information systems and the internal library. She has a bachelor of art's degree from the University of Toronto.
Irvin also oversees the systematic review program at IWH, one of the Institute's key research programs. Her research focuses on the methodology and conduct of literature reviews, from scoping to systematic.
Dr. Kim Cullen
Associate Scientist at the Institute for Work & Health
Dr. Kim Cullen is an associate scientist at the Institute for Work & Health. Cullen holds a PhD in biophysics at the University of Guelph and an MSc in clinical rehabilitation science from McMaster University. She is also a registered kinesiologist in Ontario with extensive clinical expertise in the delivery of disability management services to injured workers.
Her work has focused on work disability prevention with a particular interest in return-to-work support for both musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions. Her current research activities at IWH include work in systematic reviews and synthesis of research evidence concerning effective workplace policies and practices in return to work, as well as the development of research protocols to evaluate the effectiveness of policy and program innovation in return to work in the Ontario disability prevention system.