It may seem like two different codes, but a new approach to health and wellbeing, which focuses on the concept of the ‘industrial athlete’, could see you treating employees like an elite sports team.

Let’s huddle for a moment and consider the many parallels between employees and athletes; repetitive movements, varying mental and physical stress loads, team dynamics and some who work unconventional work hours, travel out of town or use tools that can instantly heighten their risk of an injury.

Just like a sports team, organisations need to think about how to keep their industrial athlete healthy, happy and how to prevent or minimise any injuries or risks that may impact upon this.

With all these parallels in mind it’s little wonder many organisations have embraced the industrial athlete concept, and are exploring how the principles of sports medicine can be applied to enhance their workplace health and safety.

First Base:

In most cases, the sports medicine model places greater emphasis on prevention, so building up your organisation’s health and well-being preventative baseline is the first goal to kick. Early intervention and educating your work force on wellness, self-care and preventative measures, reinforces a positive culture to help avoid and recover from minor setbacks.

Let’s visit all the bases to building up your employees’ health and wellbeing by implementing the following initiatives that are common sport team standards:

  • It’s well known that exercise benefits all chronic medical and musculoskeletal conditions, lets look even further by opening up your wellness program to include health resources, news, contacts under key areas such as nutrition, physical health, mental health and financial health.
  • A reward or incentive system – this may help to engage workers who may not be used to exercising. This winter over a third of GB employees are participating in a 100 day stepping challenge, a bit of friendly competition mixed with a pedometer that doesn’t lie has seen employees leave their desks for toolbox meetings and lunch times to pound the pavements. The bonus of a long incentive program, may see some bad habits changed for good.
  • Rehabilitation and occupational therapy support for those who are experiencing a musculoskeletal disorder that may involve specific interventions, such as core stability rehabilitation for chronic back pain; balance, flexibility, and strengthening exercises to prevent aggravating ankle injuries; rotator cuff strengthening using resistance bands to improve shoulder stability and control.
  • First aid and Ergonomics representatives – while your organisation is unlikely to afford doctors and health specialists that sports teams have on board, spending some money training up key employees on basic first aid and/or ergonomics, could reap rewards when minor injuries are treated quickly and correctly.
  • Consider health and wellbeing assessments, screenings and seminars. Often employees won’t go out of their way to visit a doctor for an annual check up or research into how they manage their nutrition goals or work-life stress. Bring it to them so they can no longer ignore it; consider quarterly lunch and learn health seminars, free health assessments on site and online health checks. Screening all employees could see

Direct Contact!

You’ve worked hard on the preparation, but unfortunately injury prevention is never foolproof. It’s vital to get your athlete – I mean employee – back on track to work.

Once an injury has occurred, ensure you have a return-to-work plan in place that recognises the effects of the injury. A physical injury can be the first step to stress and mental-health-related claims. A plan that accounts for this can ensure your employee gets back to work sooner, without exacerbating their injury or creating any others. Read our guide on managing an employee’s physical injury here.

Just like a player on the sidelines cheering on their team, it’s important to keep your employee actively engaged in the workplace. While you might be under the impression you need to wait until your employee is fully recovered after an injury to return to work, often the longer the employee stays off work the less likely they are to return.

All this focus on your treating your employees’ health and wellbeing like an industrial athlete may take some time to plan and roll out, but the outcome could see you reach the final hurdle of a healthy and productive workforce.