Presentation M P32

M P32 (Poster Presentation):
Supervisors’ strategies in the follow-up of employees with musculoskeletal complaints.

Presented by: Tove Ask


Ask T1, Magnussen LH1,2

  1. Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care. Physiotherapy Research Group, University of Bergen.
  2. Department of Occupational therapy, Physiotherapy and Radiography, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bergen University College, Norway



The supervisors’ role in the follow-up of employees with health complaints has received considerable attention in recent publications, but the knowledge regarding what are the most appropriate strategies is lacking. The purpose of this study was therefore to explore the supervisors’ experiences and strategies in the follow-up of employees with musculoskeletal complaints, sick-listed or in risk of being sick-listed. We also wanted to discuss the preferred strategies in light of leadership styles.


Five focus groups (n=26 supervisors) from the health and social service in the municipality of Bergen was conducted. Systematic text condensation was used to analyze the data.


The supervisors described different strategies depending on the phase of the sickness absence: 1) primary prevention; in this phase the supervisors emphasized supportive strategies such as paying attention to the individual employee in daily work, giving positive feedback and having a good relationship with the employees. The aim was to promote a healthy working environment and make it possible for the employees to stay at work despite musculoskeletal complaints, 2) follow-up of employees at risk of being sick-listed; to avoid sickness absence, the supervisors tried to catch up early signals of health complaints so that they could give advice and offer modified work, and 3) return-to-work phase; the supervisors used both supportive and confronting strategies aiming to promote an early return to work for the sick-listed employees. A closer cooperation with the physicians was considered as crucial to facilitate an early return to work. The variety of strategies in the different phases corresponded to either relation-oriented, transformational or task-oriented leadership styles.


The supervisors’ leadership styles and preferred strategies seemed to be dependent on the phase of sickness absence. A better balance between being supportive and finding individual solutions on one side and making demands and confronting the employees on the other side was considered important. The physicians were seen as key players in the return-to-work process.

Schedule Details

Monday September 29
12:45 - 13:45 Poster Viewing
Session: Workplace