Employee experience of workplace supervisor contact and support during long-term sickness absence
Buys, N., Selander, J. & Sun, J.
Purpose: Workplace support is an important factor in promoting successful return to work. The purpose of this article is to examine relationships between supervisor contact, perceived workplace support and demographic variables among employees on long-term sickness absence.
Materials and method: Data were collected from 204 public employees at a municipality in Sweden who had been on long term sickness absence (60 days or more) using a 23 question survey instrument that collected information on demographic variables, supervisor contact and perceived workplace support.
Results: Most injured employees (97%) reported having contact with their supervisors during their sickness absence, with a majority (56%) reporting high levels of support, including early (58.6%) and multiple (70.7%) contacts. Most were pleased with amount of contact (68.9%) and the majority had discussed workplace accommodations (68.1%). Employees who self-initiated contact, felt the amount of contact was appropriate, had a personal meeting with their supervisors and discussed workplace adjustments reported experiencing higher levels of support from supervisors.
Conclusions: Employees on long-term sickness absence appreciate contact from their supervisors and this is associated with perceived workplace support. However, the amount and employee experience of this contact is important. It needs to be perceived by employees as supportive, which includes a focus on strategies (e.g., work adjustment) to facilitate a return to work. Supervisor training is required in this area to support the return to work process.