Presentation W P11

W P11 (Poster Presentation):
Using action research to attain sustainable return to work policy change in organizations

Presented by: Ulrik Gensby

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Gensby U1,2

  1. Centre for Working Life Research, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
  2. National Centre for Occupational Rehabilitation, Rauland, Norway



Engaging workplace stakeholders to attain sustainable change in work disability management can support work retention beyond inital return to work (RTW). However, a deeper appreciation of participatory methods which can ensure equitable worker participation in the development and change of RTW policy and practice is needed. This study extends our knowledge on participatory RTW interventions, offering action research as an approach to bridge research and practice. The study also endeavors to take advantage of the range of action research perspectives available. Using an action research methodology to facilitate a RTW policy change process in the healthcare workplace, new participatory methods are tested to provide insight into important factors in creating more comprehensive RTW policies.


Empirical data was gathered in joint collaboration with managers and workers at a large Danish hospital. A series of interactive and action oriented workshops were conducted, studying the formation and implications of RTW policy and practice, and encouraging the creation of worker driven action proposals for alternative policy and practice to current management. 27 participants representing different hospital wards were included in the study. Action research protocols were used to document knowledge creation processes and joint learning.


Analysis of the action research process illustrated how RTW policy ought to remain responsive to changes in the work group or work organization, and make efforts to coordinate these changes in relation to the needs of the re-entering worker and co-workers throughout the RTW process. Worker driven action plans suggest how RTW policy procedures which are to encompass the social organization of stay at work require a developmental procedure at the local level, supporting consistent participatory knowledge sharing and coordination among all levels of the organization.


Participatory processes created relevant knowledge of how the outcome of RTW policy change processes requires that workers have the possibility and capability to work with the dilemmas they face in practice, and that the surrounding organizational context stimulates possibilities to take on worker driven proposals to transcend identified RTW policy procedural dilemmas in practice.

Schedule Details

Wednesday October 1
13:00 - 14:00 Poster Viewing
Session: Policy / theory