Workplace Outcomes in Work-Disability Prevention Research: A Review with Recommendations for Future Research

J Occup Rehabil. 2016 Dec;26(4):434-447. doi: 10.1007/s10926-016-9675-9.


Introduction Outcome assessment is a central issue in work disability prevention research. The goal of this paper was to (1) ascertain the most salient workplace outcomes; (2) evaluate the congruence between business and science perspectives; (3) illustrate new perspectives on assessing longitudinal outcomes; and (4) provide recommendations for advancing outcome evaluation in this area of research. Methods The authors participated in a year-long collaboration that culminated in a sponsored 3-day conference, "Improving Research of Employer Practices to Prevent Disability", held October 14-16, 2015, in Hopkinton, MA, USA. The collaboration included a topical review of the literature, group conference calls to identify key areas and challenges, drafting of initial documents, review of industry publications, and a conference presentation that included feedback from peer researchers and a question/answer session with a special panel of knowledge experts with direct employer experience. Results Numerous workplace work-disability prevention outcome measures were identified. Analysis indicated that their applicability varied depending on the type of work disability the worker was experiencing. For those who were working, but with health-related work limitations (Type 1), predominant outcomes were measures of productivity, presenteeism, and work-related limitations. For those who were off work due to a health condition (Type 2), predominant outcomes were measures of time off work, supervisor/employee interactions, and return-to-work (RTW) preparation. For those who had returned to work (Type 3), predominant outcomes were measures of presenteeism, time until RTW, percentage of work resumption, employment characteristics, stigma, work engagement, co-worker interactions, and sustained or durable RTW. For those who had withdrawn from the labor force (Type 4), predominant outcomes were cost and vocational status. Discussion Currently available measures provide a good basis to use more consistent outcomes in disability prevention in the future. The research area would also benefit from more involvement of employers as stakeholders, and multilevel conceptualizations of disability outcomes.

Keywords: Disability outcome measures; Methods; Research priorities; Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Occupational Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Research
  • Workplace / organization & administration*