Presentation T O18

T O18 (Oral Presentation):
Workplace perspectives on stress related sickness absence

Presented by: Janne Skakon


Ladegaard Y1, Skakon J1

  1. Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen



Long term sickness absence due to stress is an increasing problem in many countries. Prolonged stress can have serious implications for the employee’s health, quality of life and attachment to the labor marked. In recent years companies spend large amounts of money on individualized treatment for employees with work related stress. The purpose of the COPEWORK study was to investigate workplace reactions, when an employee turned sickness absent due to work related stress. Specific obstacles and opportunities for the returning to work (RTW) process were identified.


38 Danish workplaces with minimum one employee on sick leave due to stress, were included in the study. 36 managers and 28 health and safety representatives (HSR´s) accepted the invitation to participate as informants. The study applies a mixed method approach. Semi structured interviews and follow-up interviews with a one-year interval and baseline- and follow-up questionnaires were conducted. Further, professional assessment of possible explanations causing the stress related sick-leave, as well as the employees' own assessments of their psychosocial work condition completed in the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ) were included in the study. Qualitative data was analyzed through meaning condensation, categorization, thematic analysis and interpretation. Quantitative data were analyzed using multivariate logistic analyses and T-Tests.


The study revealed a complex interaction between managers, colleagues and organizational culture. Managers developed tree coping strategies. 1.Turning focus away from work-related causes, focusing on the personal and private causes of stress. 2.Refusing to talk about stress at all. 3.Doubting whether the employee really were sick due to stress. HSR’s was usually not involved in the situation, primarily because of the individualized focus on stress and private causes. Workplaces with successful RTW had significant higher scores on 13 psychosocial dimensions (COPSOQ) compared to workplaces with unsuccessful RTW, and after returning the employee experienced significantly positive changes on 11 dimensions.


The health care professionals should inform, educate and keep close contact with the workplace throughout the sick leave in order to facilitate return to work.

Schedule Details

Tuesday September 30
13:45 - 15:15 Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (T O13 - T O24 and Seminar 5)
Session: Work Disability in workers with mental disorders
Room B