A Total Worker Wellness Strategy

We know it’s all about Prevention, but so many preventative or wellness programs fall flat!! It’s not that these programs fail, per se, it’s more that they do not get the results that management expects them to get. Sometimes it’s because an expensive program or consulting company was brought into solve a problem and it may be a slow return on investment (if there ever will be any). Other times, these programs are so time consuming to maintain that they may not be sustainable for one person to manage on top of their usual work tasks. Lastly, the person who was managing the program may have left the organization, making the health promotion strategy somewhat rudderless.

All in all, if you are going to invest your time or money, you want to use your time wisely, right? Well, today I want to share with you a very promising wellness program approach.  

Why This is Important

More and more we are hearing that sedentary office activities are linked to poor health outcomes down the road. Now governmental agencies are even getting into the action. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a newish program called the Total Worker Wellness aimed at providing education, programs, and strategies for employers. This program can be a topic for a later blogpost, today is all about a really innovative yet simple wellness strategy.

So, let’s dive into it. Evidence suggests interrupting prolonged periods of sedentary behaviours even with light-intensity bouts of physical activity can result in improved cardiometabolic biomarkers (such as weight, total fat mass, resting heart rate, etc) and reduced musculoskeletal discomfort.

What’s the point of focussing only on light-intensity bouts of physical activity? Well, even slow pedaling (40 rpm) on a seated elliptical workstation results in light-intensive physical activity, which is really attainable for most office workers and also gives enough of an impact on health to make it worthwhile. Additionally, these devices are very accepted among office employees today, do not impair the employee’s ability to complete computer work, and reduces occupational sedentary time (the major plus). The really intriguing thing about it is that with this method, the employee is not required to ‘dedicate’ a significant portion of their day to this; about 10% of the workday is all that would be required WHILE they do normal computer-focussed job tasks.

The results of this simple strategy are quite impressive. With incorporating light-intensity bouts of physical activity, there was a significant association observed between daily minutes spent pedaling and:

  • Less work days missed because of health issues and
  • Reported improved concentration (huge win for the bottom-line as well as employee engagement, right?)active workstation

What you can Implement Today

If it were just as easy as telling employees to do this ‘new’ wellness initiative and automatically all employees are fully compliant, then we would never have any concerns with wellness strategies. Obviously, this is not the case. To be impactful, a wellness program must be executed correctly.

Here is the ‘meat’ behind this promising wellness approach that I’ve been hinting at for this entire post. This evidence-based wellness strategy associated with increased occupational physical activity and with improved health and work productivity outcomes was implemented in a specific way. This strategy is important for employers interested in advancing the well-being of sedentary office employees. You can check out the execution below:

  1. Ergonomics. An ergonomic consult was performed at each employee’s workstation. Interested in a low cost alternative to a traditional ergonomic assessment? Then, check out our E-Consults!
  2. Implement some sort of health promotion strategy. This study provided employees with portable ellipticals that were encouraged to be used normal seated computer work. But, ellipticals may be out of a company’s wellness budget. Instead, you could use any sort of wellness initiative such as walking at lunch, taking the stairs more, etc. As long it is some sort of health promotion activity that falls into the category of a ‘light-intensive’ activity.
  3. The Follow-up. The most value is in any wellness initiative is the promotion and encouragement. With their strategy, the employees received 3 weekly emails promoting:
    • Improved posture (30%)
    • Regular breaks for sitting (40%)
    • Self-efficacy for physical activity (15%)
    • Small changes to the work environment (10%)
    • Tips for reducing occupational stress (5%)

The Follow-up is what really sets this strategy apart from others in the same field. So many times I have seen companies with the best wellness intentions, whose programs merely fall flat. Of course, this can be because of many reasons, some of which could just be burn-out of its administrator. That’s why I like this strategy so much. Not only does it boast positive and promising results, but it is fairly straightforward to run.physical risk factors

 

Source

Carr, L, Leonhard, C., Tucker, S., Fethke, N., Benzo, R., Gerr, F. (2016). Total worker health intervention increases activity of sedentary workers. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 50(1), 9-17.

Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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