How a physiotherapist can help boost staff productivity

Written by John Doyle on 17 October 2018 in Features
Features

You don't have to work in a physically demanding job to feel the benefits of a physiotherapist, says John Doyle.

The success of today’s UK workforce is also causing its own productivity crisis. 40% of all UK sickness absence is the result of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which equates to 9.5m working days lost every year.

It’s easy to think if your role does not require physical labour you can’t injure yourself at work. However, office workers get just as many problems, caused by sedentary behaviour, physical inactivity and other lifestyle factors.

Solving the issue requires an understanding of which workplace habits are causing problems and how to keep in good health. Here’s how a physiotherapist could help your business identify the causes of MSDs and provide short- and long-term improvements for employees.

Before the problems arise

Unfortunately, it’s common for many employees to wait until pain becomes a real problem before acting against musculoskeletal injuries. However, proactively reducing the risk of employees developing MSDs before they arise can prevent future pain and boost productivity.

The key to combatting MSDs is an awareness of both the harmful activities causing the pain and how to tackle the problem areas.

Physiotherapists have a deep understanding of the strains caused by poor working habits and the contributing factors which lead to the development of musculoskeletal problems. By listening to the employer, they understand the working patterns and needs of staff to create a tailored strategy.

This includes taking a holistic view of the patient, focusing on increasing physical activity, improving aspects of emotional wellbeing which can contribute to pain, enhancing an employee’s general health and wellbeing, as well as traditional interventions such as workplace ergonomics.

A healthy and knowledgeable workforce not only boosts productivity by reducing the number of sick days but means employees are free from the distraction of pain and stress while at work.

Identifying the problem

Despite employers’ best efforts, it’s inevitable a small number of workers will still experience an MSD, especially given the UK’s ageing workforce and the fact conditions like arthritis can arise at any age. It can’t always be prevented, so it’s important to identify symptoms early and to proactively begin tackling the problem.

The key to combatting MSDs is an awareness of both the harmful activities causing the pain and how to tackle the problem areas.

Having access to a physiotherapist means employees can flag symptoms early and access help through a bespoke management plan. Working together with a physiotherapist, employees can identify habits such as sitting for too long and practice ways to break or improve them.

Identifying these behaviours has a bigger impact than you might expect. Often, MSDs go hand in hand with poor mental health, with constant pain and discomfort being linked to stress and anxiety. Employees avoiding physical triggers could find their mental health improved, as their mood is lifted and they achieve better quality sleep thanks to relief from the nagging pain.

Breaking bad habits is great for avoidance, but how can you actively combat the existing symptoms of an MSD?

Fighting back

The next step is to begin a personalised exercise programme to strengthen the problem muscles and joints. This can involve exercising, stretching and strengthening muscles to prevent common injuries caused by poor physical fitness.

There are plenty of ways to exercise, from weightlifting in the gym to performing simple stretches and exercises in the office. So, everyone can find something to suit them. As mentioned earlier, physical and mental health problems are often interrelated, so experienced physiotherapists should help you educate employees on ways to build emotional resilience too.



Steps to help employees build a stronger emotional foundation include creating a positive, healthy workplace culture. This can be as simple as encouraging an open and communicative atmosphere where people feel they can chat to their colleagues about struggles and share advice.

The benefits of working with a physiotherapist are clear and should be straightforward to sell to employees. However, modern workers’ busy schedules create a demand for convenience. You need to make physiotherapy services available at the point employees need them.

For those who can’t make it to an off-site physiotherapy appointment, consider bringing a physiotherapist on site to work with your employees. It may even encourage uptake among those who wouldn’t have wanted to travel off-site.

There are other resources that provide flexible physiotherapy services too. Try out different app services to find one which works for your employees. Some even use employee data to create a personalised action plan tailored to physical health needs.

Back to work

It’s great providing support for those in the office, but for employees suffering from serious MSDs it can sometimes require a period out of work. Absent employees should hopefully be completing a physiotherapy plan to keep them active and get them ready to return, so you must ensure the right provisions are in place to support this.

You need to understand the causes of the problem before you can start fixing it. This is where an expert physiotherapist can help, identifying troublesome areas in your workplace and offering more muscle and joint-friendly alternatives.

Making your workplace fit for all employees will drastically reduce absences and those who recognise the positive steps being taken to ensure their safety will not only be more productive but more importantly, feel truly valued by their place of work.

 

About the author

John Doyle is professional head of physiotherapy at Nuffield Health.

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