Gabrielle Lis



One of our most popular contributors, Gabrielle used her writing talents to develop easy to read content.  Her articles are clear, practical and full of creative flair, providing an easily digestible and enjoyable way to keep best practices front of mind.

Gabrielle Lis joined Return to Work Matters in October 2008, while in the throes of the final months of an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. Gabrielle was an assistant editor at RTWMatters until 2011, where she was able to combine her professional passions: writing and public policy advocacy.

Gabrielle returned to the team in 2016, once again keeping us up to date with her clear and informative articles, as well as coordinating the newsletter.

Articles by ‘Gabrielle Lis’
Case management opportunity alert

Get to know an untapped resource: Australia’s committed, highly experienced cohort of RTW case managers.

What do case managers value about their work?

Forty-six Australian case managers tell Return to Work Matters about the most rewarding aspect of their role.

Bad reassurance: "You’re fine! Don’t worry!"

Doctors and allied health professionals aiming to avoid over-treatment can actually make things worse for patients with back pain by offering reassurance that fails to reassure, according to spine...

How to really reassure

Patient / treater rapport, emotional validation and education backed by experiences that demonstrate the truth of what has been learned bring long-term benefits to patients with back pain,...

Call to power

Friendly telephone contact from laypeople with no psychological training alleviates loneliness, depression and anxiety in housebound adults, giving employers more incentive to stay in touch with...

How do we walk back non-evidence-based medicine?

The road to the de-adoption of low value healthcare is littered with good intentions, backseat drivers, evidence, eminence and economics.

To medicalise or over-medicalise

What’s the difference, and why does it matter in workers’ compensation?

Making the case for VBH

Seven potential benefits of value-based healthcare (VBH) in the context of workers’ compensation.

Barriers to VBH

Value-based healthcare promises to improve outcomes and reduce waste in workers’ compensation. What are some potential speed humps along the way?

Introducing value-based healthcare

Efficient, evidence-based and directed by what matters to patients: what’s not to like about value-based healthcare? (A lot, if you ask some spinal surgeons…)

Emergency doctor who became a patient says symptoms should guide RTW

A symptoms-based approach is a smart and humane way to make return to work decisions, underpinned by trust, good communication and empathy.

Australian workers hit hard by Covid worries

Almost as many Covid-related mental health claims as infection claims were lodged in Australia in the months to July 31, according to workers' compensation data released by Safe Work Australia -...

The Covid long haul

They call themselves the long-haulers – people who struggle with persistent symptoms months after “recovering” from Covid-19. How common is post-covid syndrome? What are the symptoms? How might it...

Our brains aren't computers, which matters for RTW

An individual's response to pain is unique to them and changes over time, so giving people the benefit of the doubt is a scientifically savvy move.

Pain has a new meaning

A change to the definition of pain offered by a key international organisation could change treatment approaches - and improve outcomes - for people with chronic pain.

Rethinking presenteeism and prevention, post-COVID-19

Swap soldiering on for staying at home. Forgo social contact we used to take for granted. Two ways the status quo has gotta go in the post-COVID working world - and some potential unintended...

Working with cancer treatment

Remaining at work while receiving cancer treatment is increasingly common. Healthy work / cancer fit requires enlightened management from employers and treating practitioners.

Coping with quarantine (and social distancing)

Quarantine is hard on people’s mental health but we can reduce the risks for those forced into isolation – and discover some social distancing mental health hacks in the process.

An introduction to self-compassion

A look at the emerging evidence on a meditation-based approach that promises relief from depression, anxiety and rumination.

Three ways RTW professionals can manage emotional labour

Burnt out? Dissatisfied? Struggling to manage your emotions 9 to 5? Emotional labour expert Dr Alicia Grandey has insights for RTW professionals who are feeling the strain of being...

icare laid bare

icare engaged with the evidence-base around best practice injury management, and tried to reform NSW workers' comp accordingly. What can we learn from the resulting mess?

Ombudsman calls for overhaul of “immoral and unethical” Victorian practices

New report concludes: “Nothing short of wholesale changes to the system will address the issues identified by both the 2016 investigation and the current one.” Does it go far enough?

A new, national approach to RTW

Safe Work Australia's National Return to Work Strategy shows promise. Will they deliver on the implementation?

Questioning the power of positivity

Do positive expectations about RTW bring results, or do good prospects make injured workers feel more positive?

Too tough, too scared, too busy

A quarter of construction workers don’t report injuries. Why - and what are the consequences?

Is your workplace ready for GPs’ best practice mental health management?

World-leading Australian guidelines will help GPs better manage work-related mental health conditions. Enlightened employers should benefit, but GPs are unlikely to recommend RTW if conflict,...

Investigation: Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are often conflated but they’re not the same. We clarify the muddy waters, then dive into the research on potential benefits and risks of mindfulness-based interventions...

Too ashamed to return to work

Shame feeds aggression and avoidance: barriers to RTW. How can workplaces and treating practitioners foster empowerment and pride instead?

Not all ergonomics is snake oil salesmanship

Sorting the healthy from the makin’-me-wealthy when it comes to the lucrative field of workplace ergonomics.

Mirror, mirror

“Who’s the fairest?” matters to compensation recipients. Researchers find associations between reduced adversarialism, greater perceived fairness and better health.

New insights: best practice risk factor identification for delayed return to work

A best practice statement sheds light on how – and when – we should collect, analyse and act on information predicting RTW struggles ahead. But there’s still a lot to learn…

Three steps to getting the appreciation you deserve

Feeling overworked and underappreciated? Here’s a simple, three-step plan to help you show ‘em what you’re worth.

Time management approaches

Learn how to reduce stress, improve productivity and increase your engagement with good time management skills.

No reporting does not equal no psychological injury

You should be worried if no workers at your organisation complain about bullying, harassment or workplace pressures, and none claim for psychological injury, says Dr Rebecca Michalak.

Ten benefits of working from home

Whether you're a full time remote worker, recovering from injury or illness, or practising social distancing during a pandemic, understanding the benefits of working from home can help you...

(Home) working it!

Accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives of remote work, with this strategic guide to making the most of working from home.

Ten challenges of working and recovering at home

Whether it's because of a work injury or a pandemic, many of us have periods of working from home. Understanding the challenges of home office life can help remote workers stay connected and...

Good news for workers who can’t return to their pre-injury job

An op shop, a chicken run, IT training and a cuppa with a CEO: Craig’s Table serves up a unique community-based retraining program loved by injured workers, employers, insurers and workers' comp...

Seeing trouble

We eyeball visual impairment in the workplace, with insights from Jan Hauser, Vision Australia National Employment Services Manager.

Q&A on sleep and work

"Enlightened bosses are interested in whether or not workers are getting enough sleep," says Professor David Hillman, of the Sleep Health Foundation

Can mind body treatments cure chronic pain?

Bold claims are emerging about chronic pain eliminated by psychological treatments with a mind-body focus.

Jurisdictional comparison: Claim lodgement

Early intervention is only possible when injuries are promptly reported. How do different Australian jurisdictions manage claim lodgement?

Psychosocial pitfalls of "ordinary" injuries

We eavesdrop on a conversation (ok, polite but passionate debate) between RTW professionals with differing views on the influence of psyschosocial issues on recovery from non-catastrophic injury.

The brain science of good boss, bad boss

New discoveries in neuroscience can help explain why some colleagues and work situations bring out the worst in you – and offer suggestions for taming your brain’s Bad Boss

Moral injury and RTW

Notions of wrongdoing, blame and guilt can seem dangerous in the context of RTW. Are we missing something about the human experience of workplace injury?

Correlation or causation?

If you want your injury management systems to be evidence-based, you need to understand how correlation differs from causation. Otherwise you put your return on investment at risk.

Tips for patients who have big decisions to make

Doctors don't dictate your fate. Learn how to get the information you need to make good decisions about your own medical treatment.

The end of sitting

Forget whistling: can standing, walking and cycling while we work improve the health of desk-bound workers? Or are active workstations more spin than substance?

Not fit for work

Why have “fit notes” failed to transform sickness certification in the UK - and what can the UK experience teach us about RTW in Australia?

"Termis" and tragedy

When injured workers are seen as numbers and claims terminations are rewarded at the expense of good claims management, the human cost is high.

What injured workers want

The bad news: according to workers, positive interactions with insurers are few and far between. The good news: what workers actually want from insurers can be boiled down to three simple...

Workers fear lodging claims for psych injury

Lodging a psycological injury claim in Australia is a scary business, and the scarier it is perceived to be, the more RTW suffers

Workplace solutions for worried claimants

What do workers who lodge a claim for psychological injury worry about? And how can the workplace help ease these worries?

Consequences of bad juju between workers and insurers

When interactions with insurers are negative, workers’ compensation claimants describe serious consequences for mental health, financial stability, family relationships and recovery.

Supportive supervisors see more RTW

Australian data shows that supervisors who are seen to promote physical and psychological safety, and acknowledge injury when it does occur, see more RTW.

Workplace MSDs: Neck, arm, hand interventions rated

Working out at work can prevent common musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, arm and hand. Find out which other interventions make the grade and which fail to deliver according to a 2016 research...

Top five insurer fails: Injured workers talk

In workers’ compensation systems across the world, injured workers describe predominantly negative interactions with insurers. We share the low-down from an Australian review of the research.

Qualitative VS Quantitative research

What is qualitative research? Can it help solve the puzzle of why workers’ compensation seems to be bad for your health?

Spinal fusion: All pain, no gain?

Australians are turning to spinal fusions to control lower back pain despite a lack of evidence. Poor outcomes are particularly likely in the workers' comp system.

How to support psychological claimants

When psychological claimants feel supported by their employer the RTW outlook is bright. Here we distil the advice of experts into a brief how-to guide to help you capitalise on the support advantage.

Two-thirds of psychological claimants report no workplace contact

New research shows Australian employers delay and even avoid contact with workers who make psychological injury claims, and finds an association with poor outcomes for return to work.

How-to guide: Calling psychological injury claimants

Delaying contact with workers who’ve claimed for psychological injury can delay return to work. This article outlines why, how and when to make *that* call.

New data shows employer support crucial for psychological claimants

In Australia, only one third of psychological claimants feel supported by their employer: those who do are substantially more likely to return to work.

WorkSafe Victoria failing the most vulnerable: insurers profiting

We summarise the Victorian Ombudsman's investigation into WorkSafe's handling of complex claims, which paints a picture of opportunistic insurers and systemic failings. Is WorkSafe ready to...

How Dr Wyatt analysed the National Return to Work Survey

In which we introduce the National Return to Work Survey, describe how Dr Wyatt has analysed the results of the 2013 and 2014 surveys, and draw attention to the difference between correlation and...

Comparing the data: physical and psychological claims

Dr Wyatt dug into the data on the outcomes and experiences of Australian workers who lodge claims for physical and psychological injury. This overview reveals similarities but as ever the devil is...

Supervisors apathetic about RTW?

Six apathy-busting tips for when supervisors just don't seem to care about managing RTW.

Managing up

Influencing people above you in the organisational hierarchy is good for your career and can help you achieve more in your role. What are the secrets?

Sedentary exercise

Think that 30-40 minutes of daily exercise gets an office-based workforce off the hook? Think again. Activity throughout the day is a must for good health.

Supervising wellbeing

How do managers and supervisors impact the mental and emotional wellbeing of their team? Is it possible to manage in a way that promotes good mental and emotional health?

Estimating turnover costs

Making the business case for best practice injury management? There are simple methods to assist you in calculating the rate and cost of staff turnover in your organisation.

Calculating absenteeism costs

Calculating the costs of absenteeism will help you make the case for better injury management systems and investment in health and wellbeing.

Managing disaster compensation

Richard Green, injury and claims manager with the CFA after Black Saturday, knows what to expect from disaster-exposed workers, and how to help them through.

The age of manual handling

Qantas at Brisbane Airport safely retains older manual handling workers by asking whether there is a match between required tasks and individual capacity...

White collar, blue collar

Are you a RTW professional daunted by the prospect of working with a predominantly blue collar workforce? You're not alone. Here are ten tried and tested tips for building rapport.

Worksite wonders

Visiting injured workers at home and at work is an integral part of the Scenic Rim Regional Council's award winning injury management program. What makes this approach so effective?

Case study: Tact and trust

Are your innovative ideas constantly met with suspicion? This case study from cotton-milling industrial revolution Scotland looks at how tact builds trust - and what squanders it.

Profession profile: Occupational Therapists

If your injury management program isn't bridging the gap between the workplace and the doctor's office, an Occupational Therapist could help...

Backing away from compensation

A prominent South Australian back surgeon has called for workers' comp for back pain to be scrapped. Why not fix treatment?

Costs of 'job strain' related depression

What is job strain? How is it linked to depression? And what are the associated costs? New Australian research has the answers...

The OT way

What do gardening, work and dancing have in common? According to Occupational Therapist Sven Roehrs, each is an "occupation" and each has the potential to improve health and promote...

Patient advocacy and workers' comp

Workers' comp cases present GPs and other health professionals with opportunities for meaningful patient advocacy. How can these be seized?

Designer jobs

Does job design affect health and performance in the workplace? And if so, how can jobs be redesigned to improve both?

Asking assertively

Know what you want from people at work, but not how to get it? Learn how to talk the talk, and frame your requests assertively.

Musculoskeletal injuries and mental illness

Many Australians experience a mental disorder while also suffering from a musculoskeletal condition. Does one cause the other?

Sunny side down

Is it possible to have too much optimism? And what's the best approach to take when you're confronted by someone else's pessimism?

Styles of communication

Passive. Aggressive. Assertive. How does your professional communication style affect your working life?

Managers VS workers

Hang on! Isn't RTW supposed to be all about the love? We count down ten ways to improve tetchy worker / manager relationships.

Trust: Dos and Don'ts

You know organisational trust has tangible benefits. Now for the hard yards: how can you foster trust in your workplace and in your injury management system?

Stigma and mental illness

What is stigma? What are some consequences of stigma? How might stigma manifest in the workplace? And what can you do about it?

Mind power

Psychologist Colin Thompson introduces us to Mindfulness Therapy, which has been shown to assist people with problems including anxiety, chronic pain and addiction.

Who's the boss?

The health and wellbeing of people with chronic illness improves when they become 'self-managers'. Are there lessons here for RTW?

Worried about the ageing workforce?

We corral five notorious porky pies about work and ageing and pit them against the fast-draw facts.

Missing the signs

Organisations who offer "good work" have fewer stress and musculoskeletal claims. Managerial competence helps determine whether work is "good". Are Australian organisations missing the...

Philosopher King

An Italian entrepreneur has turned the Umbrian village of Solomeo into both a fashion factory, and an extraordinary experiment in workplace health and wellbeing.

Chronic disease snapshot

In Australia and globally, preventable chronic diseases are on the rise. What does this mean for employers?

Let's get loud

Taking ages to recover and return to regular duties after a workers' compensation claim? Make some noise!

Rehab Providers a mystery to you?

This Q&A for employers covers the Who, What, When and How of Rehabilitation Providers

Acupuncture explained

Researchers now know how tiny, drug-free needles kill pain. This briefing paper covers what acupuncture is, and what it's good for.

When doctor-dollars trump sense

Does Australia have anything to learn from an American expose of the influence drug companies exert on medical research?

Health and wellbeing in the real world

Trouble convincing your organisation to invest in workplace health and wellbeing? Try these "magic bullet" case studies from the UK...


Shh! The low-down on confidentiality, return to work and workers' comp.

Does RTW Coordinator training fit the bill?

Do Australian training courses provide RTW Coordinators with the skills they need?

Opioids: Q & A

Are opioids a safe and effective treatment for acute pain? How about chronic pain? What are the risks and benefits?

Invisible injury

When it comes to "invisible injury", what you CAN'T see CAN hurt you--and your RTW prospects. How can the workplace help?

What is process related injury?

Sometimes compensation systems, not injury, deliver the knock out blow. Don't let that happen to your workers!

Discrimination, harassment and RTW

How can employers avoid real (or perceived) discrimination and harassment during the RTW process?

More than medical

Some people have a harder time managing their injury and returning to work than others. Are medical issues usually responsible?

Strategic implementation Q&A

How to take the long view and get where you want to go, faster.

Quick guide: Avoiding litigation

Don't send yourself--or your worker--to the dogs! Fair in-house systems can keep claims out of court.

Disability management pegged: Part 3

Iron out problems by taking action

System satisfaction?

Satisfaction with the claims process affects the long term financial, social and health outcomes of compensation recipients. How do we increase it?

Disability management pegged: Part 2

Identify "dirty" laundry and take it to the cleaners

Disability management pegged: Part 1

You don't have to hang anybody out to dry to get your systems pegged. Instead, make plans and make friends.

Quick Guide: Self efficacy

Not every injured or ill worker has the "I think I can" attitude of the Little Engine That Could. But you can get them there!

A quick guide to managing cases

The who, what, where, when of RTW case management

Resolving long-term claims

We profile a success story in identifying and dismantling non-medical barriers to RTW at Concord Hospital, NSW

Top ten ways to reduce sick leave

Keep workers and reduce sick leave with a dose of sick leave sugar (and a dash of lemon!)

Shouldering on

A fact sheet about shoulder pain, including workplace contributions and solutions

Tennis elbow fact sheet

A down-the-line serve about work and tennis elbow, including good news about recovery and prevention.

Fact sheet: Medical certification in Australia

Sickness certificates can be dangerous. Proceed with caution!

Spanner in the return to works

Are over-worked, inexperienced and uncompassionate insurer staff jeopardising RTW outcomes?

Suspicious Minds

Tips for supervisors who have their doubts about a worker's injury or compensation claim.

How YOU can take charge of RTW

A fact sheet for injured workers.

Anxiety Q&A 3: Working with anxiety

This final instalment provides tips for helping anxious employees maintain their cool and remain at work.

Anxiety Q&A Part 2: The costs

In part two of this three part series, we look at the personal, economic and work-related costs of anxiety.

Want to be a back pain superhero?

This comprehensive guide to helping workers with back pain will have you donning lycra in no time...

Anxiety Q&A Part 1: The basics

Understanding anxious employees is the first step in helping them maintain their cool and remain at work.

Suspicious about a claim at your small business?

There are three golden rules for small business owners who doubt the work-relatedness of an injury...

Trouble communicating? Stop talking: Listen!

A quick guide to the advantages and basic techniques of active listening.


The most common barriers to RTW are "psychosocial". Getting to know them makes it possible to overcome them.

Dealing with downsizing

A quick guide to minimising negative impacts of downsizing on workers' comp claims and return to work.

Bullying in Australian workplaces: Q&A

Bullying is bad for workplace health and bad for RTW. How widespread is it, and how does it impact on the field?

RTW relationship hurdles 2: Doctors and employers

Hurdling with a briefcase is tough, so why not dismantle RTW relationship barriers before they trip you up?

RTW relationship hurdles 1: Doctors and employers

Part One - What are the barriers to good doctor / employer relationships?

Juggling RTW and performance issues?

These practical industry insights will save you from having to grow an extra pair of arms...

Stalled RTW?

This simple checklist will help you pinpoint the problem and jump start the process.

The ABC of CBT: Part Three

In which we ask: Who would benefit from CBT? How can you broach the subject of therapy in the workplace? How long does CBT take?

Motivational mojo medicine

RTW motivation can be hard to muster...Unless you've had your dose of the RTWMatters motivational mojo!

The ABC of CBT: Part Two

In which we - and injured worker Ms W - learn that when you change your behaviour, you also change your thoughts, beliefs, feelings...and rehab prospects.

To schmooze or not to schmooze?

There's no question about it, injured workers need special treatment. Employers, here are ten ways to show workers you care...

Why base rehab in the workplace?

If you're having trouble convincing injured or ill workers that early return to work is the best option, there are 5 things they need to know...

6 simple apathy busters

Supervisors apathetic about RTW? You gotta bust that apathy ASAP!

The ABC of CBT: Part One

In which we - and injured worker Ms W - learn that 'C' is for 'Cognitive,' and that thoughts aren't facts.

Only know the bare bones about arthritis?

Flesh out your arthritis knowledge with a to-the-point briefing paper...

How to tip the balance AWAY from claims for strains and sprains

Practical tips for reducing musculoskeletal claims

What do RTW Professionals need to know about CBT?

The basics of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how it can be used to resolve difficult RTW cases.

Top ten reasons to have a health and wellbeing program

Need some ammunition to make the case for investment in health and wellbeing? Look no further than our latest top ten...

Q&A: The first five minutes

What happens in the first five minutes after injury affects health outcomes and costs. And your time starts...

What's work got to to do with it?

Returning to work is even harder if the work itself feels meaningless. What makes a job meaningful?

Sprains and strains causing RTW pain?

How-to Guide: Using modified duties to promote durable return to work.

Asleep on the job

Missing a tram stop is the last thing fatigued workers should be worrying about. Try diabetes, heart disease, depression...

Conflict Cookie #4: Making the most of conflict

Conflict driving you crazy? Use it to drive innovation...

Manage people, not musculoskeletal symptoms

Ignoring the non-physical causes of musculoskeletal problems leads to very poor outcomes in this all too familiar case study.

All bad news or incentive to improve?

The financial crisis provides employers opportunity to support employees to better health - but there are pitfalls to avoid.

The proven pay-off of workplace health programs

The results of a Monash University study assessing the results of participation in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) are in: employee wellbeing improves when employers invest.

Dos and Don'ts for workplace health during a downturn or recession

A short guide to surviving a downturn in business for busy RTW and OHS professionals.

Employees tough to budge on workplace health?

Dr Steve Beller says 'Joy of living' is a much more powerful motivator than 'fear of illness and death'.

Tired of workplace health wannabes?

Every workplace has health champions and health underdogs. Motivating the latter can be a real challenge...

Riding the see-saw of workers' comp costs

During recession, claim numbers go down but claim duration goes up. What happens to costs?

Conflict Cookie #3: Managing conflict

It's a waste to sweep cookie crumbs under the carpet, and the same goes for conflict. Don't ignore workplace conflict: manage it.

Musculoskeletal hazards: Why ticking the box gets a red cross

Assessing risk isn't about ticks and crosses in a box. So why do Australian workplaces tend to rely on manual handling checklists?

Gluttons for punishment? Talking work and psychosis at Mind

Ever wondered what it might be like to work with a mental illness, let alone return to work after a psychotic episode? We spoke to a group of people who've done it - and some of what they told us...

Zeroing in on risky business: Hazard assessment and musculoskeletal disorders

We take a look at the non physical work factors that contribute to musculoskeletal disorders

Returning to work? Ten tips to help you survive the system!

Getting back to work after illness or injury can be daunting. Stick to our top ten, however, and not only will you survive - you'll thrive.

CONFLICT COOKIE #2 Recognising conflict

Recognising conflict BEFORE you trip over it is essential for managing successful return to work.

You don't have to bend over backwards to benefit from workplace flexibility

Employers don't have to bend over backwards to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. Just get flexible!

Conflict Cookie #1: What kinds of conflict happen in the workplace?

Remember how your mum taught you to turn lemons into lemonade? In this series of bite-sized articles, we make cookies out of conflict!

What's more painful than chronic pain? Chronic pain in 'The System'

Workers' comp and RTW systems can exacerbate chronic pain, but as Coralie Wales from Chronic Pain Australia explains, that's not the end of the story...

On the clock and over the hill? Ageing workers in physical industries

We can't turn back the clock, but we can offer advice on how to minimise the impact of age on "work ability" in physically intensive industries.

Top ten tips for super smooth supervising of RTW

Supervising return to work ain't easy...unless you've read our latest top ten!

Diamond discovered while down in the dumps about return to work.

A new UK report finds that RTW depression is widespread, even when physical illness is the reason for work absence. Employers can make a difference.

Top ten tips for preventing long term claims

Changes to your injury management system can help reduce claim duration.

How to be a trauma-ready employer

We talk trauma, recovery in the workplace and PTSD with Professor Mark Creamer from the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health.

Top ten tips to help employees with depression

Productive employment probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of depression. But helping employees with depression stay at work is good for everybody. Our top ten tips...

Business as usual: Managing RTW and psychiatric disability

Dr Geoffrey Waghorn tells us about the importance of employment for people with severe mental illness - and how it's best achieved by simple, everyday good management.

Gabrielle Lis

Gabrielle Lis joins RTWMatters from the beach at Wilson's Prom

Six steps to good governance in RTW

Ever looked at someone else’s injury management results and thought: I want what they’ve got? Here’s how RTW coordinators, supervisors, senior managers and the Board of Directors interact to get...