Physical and mental health conditions dominate as the leading causes of work disability worldwide. Over the last decade, systematic reviews have synthesized the best research evidence across more than 150 studies to learn what we can do to support return-to-work (RTW), improve recovery and reduce productivity losses. Despite this evidence, workplaces face challenges in implementing these strategies.
Canadian workplaces face many challenges, including: distinct industry sectors, a high prevalence of remote and small workplaces, and an aging and increasingly precariously-employed workforce. Many provinces also have high rates of disability and unemployment and declining labour forces. Successful RTW is critical to minimizing unemployment while maximizing the capacities of the dwindling labour force across these jurisdictions.
Using an illustrative example on supporting workers with physical and mental health conditions in RTW, this project outlines a novel synthesis approach that links evidence to practice. Applying a model for evidence-informed decision support, we draw on the best research evidence and integrate it with contextual evidence from practitioner expertise and stakeholder experiences to answer the questions: what works?, will it work here? and, can we implement it in practice?
Findings from three projects will document our experience applying this decision support model to help workers with physical and mental health conditions in RTW. Results highlight the effectiveness of this model in bridging research-to-practice knowledge gaps. This synthesis approach demonstrates a practical way to enhance the use of current knowledge tailored to the context of specific industries and workplaces. The model's primary strength lies in the use of three sources of evidence: research findings, practitioner expertise and stakeholder experience. The full integration of these sources of evidence enhances the opportunity for optimal work disability prevention efforts.