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Return-to-work: The importance of human interactions and organizational structures


The purpose of this study was to gain insight into stakeholder perspectives on barriers and facilitators for return-to-work (RTW). Qualitative methodology with purposive sampling was employed. A total of 55 participants, representing a wide spectrum of stakeholders and industry, were interviewed in individual or group format. Interview transcripts were coded, categorized according to themes, and placed within a framework which reflected the dynamic interaction of individuals and the structural systems or context of those individuals.

Findings indicated that perceived barriers to RTW included delays of all types in processing or delivery of information or treatment, and ineffective communication among stakeholders. Facilitators to RTW included establishment of RTW programs in the workplace, effective communication and teamwork, as well as trust and credibility among stakeholders. The interdependence of organizational structures and human interactions was evident in successful RTW programs which emphasized teamwork, early intervention, and communication. Differing stakeholder perspectives, however, especially on issues such as worker attitudes and participation, must be acknowledged and addressed if more injured workers are to be successful in returning to full employment.