Presentation M O37

M O37 (Oral Presentation):
Workplace perspectives on return to work: exploring the social role of the returnee

Presented by: Eva Ladekjær Larsen

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Ladekjær Larsen E1,2, Nielsen CV1,3, Petersen K1,3

  1. MarselisborgCentret, Research & Development Public Health and Quality Improvement Central Denmark Region, Aarhus
  2. Unit for Health Promotion Research, University of Southern Denmark
  3. Section of Clinical Social Medicine, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Denmark



Contemporary return-to-work policies in Denmark and other welfare states recommend employees on long-term sick leave to return to work gradually rather than to stay at home until they have achieved full recovery. The process of work reintegration is, however, underexplored, and little is known about how this process is experienced by the returnee’s colleagues. This study is part of a larger project: Workplace perspectives on the return to work process, designed as four fieldworks at different worksites. The aim of the project is to investigate the process of work reintegration with particular focus on the interaction with colleagues. In this presentation we focus on the social role that is constructed in the RTW process and illustrate how this role creates uncertainty for the involved work place actors


Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted at two nursing homes that were in a process of reintegrating a sickness-absent employee. The data consist of field notes, policy documents, individual interviews, and focus group interviews with workplace actors. A total number of 48 individuals participated in the study. A theoretical framework was adopted which enabled us to approach and interpret the reintegration process as one that changed the social position of the returning employee. Data were organized by use of NVivo, and ethnographic principles were used for analysis of the data.


The dataset demonstrates how the returnee is in a state of being betwixt and between the social positions of a colleague and a non-colleague. It complicated the working routine of the entire work place and left colleagues in doubt of how and when to integrate the RTW person in specific working tasks and in overall social interactions. This is illustrated in two cases: 1) work situations that prevent the returnee from taking on the role as a colleague, and 2) work situations where colleagues exclude the returnee from the work community.


The study highlighted that work reintegration creates a social position for the returnee that complicates the working routine and causes uncertainty in social interactions.

Schedule Details

Monday September 29
15:45 - 17:15 Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (M O25 - M O37 and Seminar 3)
Session: Return to work process
Room B