Research Updates

RTWMatters team

Articles by ‘RTWMatters team’
RTW expectations built on trust, workplace support and actions of treatment provider

RTW expectations predict recovery from musculoskeletal injury. Workplace supports, trust and the actions of healthcare providers all shape RTW expectations, according to NZ workers

Work demands and resources linked to mental health absences

Work that offers few learning opportunities, low co-worker and supervisor support, high emotional demands and high-work family interference is strongly linked to long-term, mental-health related...

What aspects of work cause MSDs for professional drivers?

Interventions for work-related MSDs should not be based merely on addressing the symptoms, but must also focus in managing the physical and psychosocial risk factors behind the injury.

Quality of work predicts mental health

There is a strong link between work quality and mental health, and some workers are slugged by multiple psychosocial negatives, according to new Canadian / Australian research.

Benevolence at work

A sense of being able to give is linked to less stress and depression at work.

Case management survey: caseloads, commitment and self-training

We share results from the 2021 Return to Work Matters Case Management Survey, completed by more than 60 insurance case managers, RTW Coordinators and rehabilitation professionals.

The high cost of losing value at work

Supervisors need to recognise that workers who feel socially devalued at work suffer health and wellbeing consequences, according to experts who conducted a massive review of the available research.

Opportunity to increase value in low back pain care

A single pain management skills session is as effective at reducing pain catastrophising for people with chronic low back pain as eight sessions of CBT.

Targeted prevention of long-term sickness absence

Some prevention strategies go the distance, reducing long term sickness absence even five years post-intervention. Others have short term benefits only. Does mental health complicate effectiveness?

Good news on remote work (but not pandemic health)

Shifting to remote work during lockdown doesn’t necessarily derail health. However, workers may be suffering ill-effects across the board and those who were already remote pre-pandemic may do...

Trying too hard at work

The severity of overexertion injuries in construction rises with age, while the frequency of different types of musculoskeletal disorders shift. All age groups could benefit from preventative...

Gaming workplace wellness

For sedentary office workers, gamification steps up activity but nudges (e.g. signs) in the workplace fail to maintain the gains.

Bumpy road to RTW with whiplash injuries

For people with chronic whiplash-related disorders, RTW is a difficult process, with alternating progress and setbacks. Support at work, and better planning around treatment both help.

Older workers face worse consequences for hard, physical work

The negative health consequences of high physical work demands depend on age, with workers aged 60 plus facing twice the risk of long term work absence compared to younger workers performing...

The OT perspective on RTW and cancer

Occupational Therapists (OTs) say people returning to work after cancer are likely to face physical, emotional and cognitive challenges. Optimism, combined with a realistic view of the probable...

Sick lifestyle? More leave, less work ability

Workers with healthy lifestyles have less sick leave and higher work ability than those who smoke, eat poorly, exercise little and are overweight.

Tired of MSDs

Might more ZZZs or less fatigue help workers with pain from musculoskeletal disorders recover workability?

A new look at depression and RTW

Clinical treatment combined with workplace changes is the most promising approach for improving RTW for people with depression, but improved healthcare offers benefits too.

Talking about episodic disability at work

Canadian researchers explore organisational perspectives on talking about episodic disability at work.

The more the spine changes, the more it stays the same?

Neck X-rays show that changes to the cervical spine are common, and become more common and more pronounced with age. Like wrinkles or grey hair, however, normal spinal aging hasn't been tied to...

Listening to emergency call-takers

It's a tough job with few supports, and far too little research into health and wellbeing outcomes. What do we know about 000 stress, and positive steps that might ease it?

You didn't tell me that: Unfair communication and mental health

More Australian research supports the link between mental health struggles amongst workers' compensation claimants and perceptions that the system is unfair - and suggests that unfairness around...

How to get bang for buck from vocational rehabilitation

Multi-component vocational rehabilitation programs that intervene early and improve coordination between workers, family members, employers and health care service providers yield better outcomes...

Are health apps the way forward for chronic MSDs?

A promising new digital care program that monitors exercise and offers personal health coaching and peer support has successfully engaged people with chronic MSD pain, achieving impressive...

Threat assessments make or break RTW with PTSD

Treaters and RTW professionals who want to promote safe and timely RTW amongst people with PTSD should pay particular attention to threat appraisals – i.e. whether symptoms and / or the workplace...

Are we taking care of psychiatric nurses?

Psychiatric nurses who report the most mental health symptoms see more barriers to seeking help than those whose mental health is good. How can organisations better support recovery?

Perspective check: Claims leaders versus frontline claims professionals

Nine takeaways from US research comparing the perspectives of claims leaders to those on the front line.

Metabolic syndrome: risks and opportunities

Metabolic syndrome compromises health and work, but a personalised exercise intervention helps VW workers leave these problems in the dust...

Worker perspectives on back pain, heavy manual labour and sickness absence

Danish researchers conclude that ergonomics training can cause confusion and stress, while supportive supervisors make it easier for workers to stay at work with a sore back.

Putting the "social" back in biopsychosocial

What does the international evidence say about the impact of compensation systems, health care systems and significant others on workability for people with lower back pain?

RTW intervention supergroup

International research says workplace interventions work best when they tick multiple boxes: focusing on health, service coordination AND work modification.

Whose support matters, and when?

How does pre-existing workplace social support impact return to work after injury? Do supervisor and co-worker responses to injury have an impact on the duration of work absence?

High demands + low control = depression, anxiety

New evidence strengthens link between job strain and common mental health disorders, with researchers arguing low control may be more damaging than high demands.

Identifying and managing psychosocial risks

In this 5 minute guide, we give you the dot-point version of research into psychosocial risks and MSDs

Supervisor training wasted without support from the top?

Before your organisation invests in supervisor training, ask whether the organisational culture reinforces or contradicts the lessons you think supervisors need to learn.

Do opioids for acute MSD pain help RTW?

Research seeking answers turned up more questions instead...

Individuality, work and PTSD

Employment outcomes are better for PTSD veterans when individual skills, abilities and preferences are taking into account.

One LBP intervention does not fit all

Is there such a thing as too much early intervention for workers with lower back injuries?

How do workers decide when to return?

Top ten considerations that underlie decisions about the timing of RTW.

Workers have perfect families, right?

Compensation systems idealise families, expecting too much family support for injured workers while offering too little in return

Psychological treatment reduces post-surgical pain

Patients feel less acute, post-surgical pain when they take part in a psychological intervention (e.g. CBT).

Is supervisor confidence key to mental health contact?

Training makes managers more confident in their communication skills and more likely to get in touch with workers who have a psychological injury, but no more knowledgeable about mental ill-health.

Work motivation and chronic disease

What do people with chronic disease value about work? What motivates them to keep working and what makes them want to stay at home instead?

Where are the mental health nuts and bolts?

Mental health capabilities, culture, policies and procedures are lacking compared to leadership and workplace connectedness, according to Superfriend.

Action lagging behind good intentions?

Workers see the benefits of good workplace mental health but think business and government need to take action, according to Superfriend

Supervisors reveal anxieties about mental health

Supervisors describe mental health-related work absences as unpredictable and worrisome. How might supervisor anxiety affect RTW outcomes?

Super Support

Experienced supervisors list ten ways they understand and support injured workers

Women, children and RTW

Injury has a big impact on home life. Does home life (especially caring for dependent children) impact RTW in turn?

What is the story, Safe Work Australia?

Claims are going down but costs are going up. Has safety improved? We dig into the data on trends in Australian workers comp.

Work Versus Return to Work?

Supervisors say that balancing competing demands is an integral part of supporting RTW

Snapshot of Australian claims, 2015-16

The latest in Australian workers compensation data: we summarise claims numbers by gender, profession, industry, body part and type of injury or illness.

Supervisors know RTW is a team sport

What competencies do supervisors think they need to manage the impact of RTW on teams and coworkers?

Supervisor self-care

Supervising RTW can be challenging, both emotionally and professionally. What supports are available? What self-care approaches work best?

Co-worker collateral

Return to work processes are designed to help injured workers recover on the job but co-workers can suffer collateral damage. How can we limit the fallout?

Team players or nay-sayers?

Five things that make or break co-worker support for modified duties during the early days of return to work.

Training to fail?

Australian Return to Work Coordinators complain about the quality and relevance of the training they receive. How can we do better?

Positivity and disability

What personality traits and experiences make people more likely to cope with adversity such as disability?

Back to basics: RTW plans

What aspects of RTW planning are the most important, according to supervisors and rehabilitation professionals? Not the bells and whistles but the basics.

The talking heart of RTW

What kinds of communication skills do supervisors need to support injured workers?

Supervisors and the bureaucracy of RTW

In order to support RTW, supervisors must understand injury management systems and processes. But ticking the boxes is not their most important role...

Popularity contest

Rehabilitation professionals see the personal qualities of supervisors (e.g. honesty, fairness and diplomacy) as vital RTW offerings. Is emotional intelligence key?

Research reveals top ten supervisor skills for RTW

Honesty, respect for privacy, job knowledge and tough love all make the list of supervisor skills that promote return to work, as rated by rehabilitation professionals. What tops it?

Five ways to manage conflict

Integration, obligation, domination, avoidance and compromise are all valid ways to manage conflict. The trick is knowing which tactic to use when, and why...

Research short: Interactions between Injured Workers and Insurers in Workers Compensation Systems

The main question addressed by the review was: What are the interactions between injured workers, healthcare providers and insurance personnel in workers compensation systems.