Effective workplace-based return-to-work interventions: a systematic review update

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Published: February 2017

by: Cullen KL, Irvin E, Gensby U, Jennings P, Hogg-Johnson S, Kristman VL, Laberge M, McKenzie D, Newnam S, Shourie S, Steenstra I, Van Eerd D, Amick B

This journal article synthesizes the evidence from a systematic review on the effectiveness of workplace-based interventions that assist in the return to work (RTW) of workers with musculoskeletal disorders, pain-related conditions or mental health conditions. The systematic review updates the Institute for Work & Health's 2004 review of effective workplace-based RTW programs that resulted in the popular Seven "Principles" of Successful Return to Work. Since the 2004 review, considerably more evidence has been added to the research literature on the effectiveness of workplace-based return-to-work programs. This update incorporates that evidence, and also expands on the original review to include pain-related and mental health conditions. 

Based on this updated review, we recommend implementing multi-domain RTW interventions (i.e. including health-care provisions, service coordination and work accommodation components) to help reduce lost time related to musculoskeletal, pain-related and mental health conditions. Practitioners should also consider implementing these programs to help improve work functioning and reduce costs associated with work disability.