Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 486–494 | Cite as

Workplace Social System and Sustained Return-to-Work: A Study of Supervisor and Co-worker Supportiveness and Injury Reaction

  • Arif JethaEmail author
  • Anthony D. LaMontagne
  • Rebbecca Lilley
  • Sheilah Hogg-Johnson
  • Malcolm Sim
  • Peter Smith


Objective To examine the impact of the social workplace system on sustained return-to-work (SRTW). Methods A random sample of workers’ compensation claimants was recruited to complete a survey following claim acceptance (baseline), and 6 months later (time 2). SRTW, at baseline and time 2, was classified as those reporting being back at work for >28 days. Co-worker and supervisor support were assessed using five and seven items, respectively, and total scores were produced. A list of potential supervisory and co-worker reactions were presented to participants who were asked whether the reaction applied to them; response were coded as positive or non-positive. Demographic and injury characteristics, and work context factors were collected. Baseline and at time 2 multivariable models were conducted to examine the impact of supervisory and coworker support and injury reaction on SRTW. Results 551 (baseline) and 403 (time 2) participants from the overall cohort met study eligibility criteria. At baseline, 59% of all participants indicated SRTW; 70% reported SRTW at time 2. Participants reported moderate support from their supervisor (mean = 8.5 ± 3.9; median = 8.2; range = 5–15) and co-workers (mean = 10.2 ± 4.5; median = 10.3; range = 5–25). Over half reported a positive supervisor (59%) or co-worker injury reaction (71%). Multivariable models found that a positive supervisor injury reaction was significantly associated with SRTW at baseline (OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.4–3.9) and time 2 (OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.1–2.3). Conclusions Promoting supervisor positivity towards an injured worker is an important organizational work disability management strategy.


Return-to-work Organizational factors Social support Injury reaction Supervisor Co-worker Work disability management And longitudinal analysis 



This study is funded by Australian Research Council (ARC) and Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR). The authors would also like to acknowledge the Social Research Centre (SRC) for conducting study interviews. Also, we would acknowledge the assistance of WorkSafe Victoria, SafeWork Australia, Office of The Age Discrimination Commissioner, Beyond Blue and the Australian Industry Group.


This study is funded by the Australian Research Council and Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research awarded to PS (LP130100091).

Author Contributions

AJ led analytical procedures and manuscript development. PS is the principal investigator for the study, and led the conceptualization, development and design of the study protocol. He critically reviewed and revised the manuscript and significantly contributed to the analysis. ADL, RL, MS, SHJ were involved in the development of the study protocol, acquisition of research funding, and manuscript development.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arif Jetha
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anthony D. LaMontagne
    • 3
  • Rebbecca Lilley
    • 4
  • Sheilah Hogg-Johnson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Malcolm Sim
    • 6
  • Peter Smith
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute for Work & HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Population Health ResearchDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  4. 4.Dunedin School of MedicineUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  5. 5.Canadian Memorial Chiropractic CollegeTorontoCanada
  6. 6.School of Public Health and Preventive MedicineMonash University, The Alfred CentreMelbourneAustralia

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