A new research project focussing on work retention in employees with musculoskeletal and physically demanding jobs has been awarded 1.5 m. Danish Kroner (approx. 200 000 €) in financial backing from the Danish Working Environment Research Fund.
The project is named “Way to go – Development of a joint effort to prevent, retain at work and rehabilitate employees with musculoskeletal disease and physically demanding work”.
Despite a general decrease in sickness absence statistics in Denmark in recent years, musculoskeletal pain continues to be a major cause of work disability in cleaners and other workers with physically demanding jobs, and causes more days off work in these groups compared to other job groups.
“Only now are we learning how employers, social services, general practitioners and other stakeholders in the national health services engage and best cooperate about preventing work disability. One of the most important factors in helping workers stay at work is communication between all relevant stakeholders” says Senior Researcher Mette Jensen Stochkendahl. And she continues “The stakeholders have different barriers for assisting workers in retaining their job, and in order to decrease sickness absence and early retirement due to musculoskeletal pain, we need to identify suitable ways to overcome these barriers.” To achieve that, the research team will work together with general practitioners, social services, and employers to develop a toolbox with evidence based tools to help overcome barriers for engaging in work disability prevention. Once these tools are fully developed, they will be may available through courses, apps, podcasts and written material.
Preventing work disability is a multifactorial challenge that includes factors relating to the individual’s health, social relations and work situation. Previous research has shown that it is key to involve workplace actors in the process, if job retention or return-to-work is to be successful. In addition, there is a need to link health care and social service interventions, and focus on better communication when it comes to helping vulnerable groups with complex problems in physically demanding jobs like those in focus in this project.
Project manager is Senior Researcher at NIKKB and associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Mette Jensen Stochkendahl. Senior Researcher at NIKKB and Professor at SDU, Jan Hartvigsen, Professor at SDU, Karen Søgaard, and associate professor SDU, Lotte Nygaard Andersen are also among the ten researchers from the mixed Danish and international research team.