From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Preparing Employees for a Return-to-Work

Andrew Walsh, DPT, CEAS and Peter Budnick, PhD, CPE
snapshot from Ergoweb's floor-to-waist lifting exercise guide

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many employees to stay home, and others to work reduced schedules. This extended time away from work may result in some physiological changes among your associates. If your workplace requires forceful exertions, repetitive motions, awkward postures or other ergonomics risk factors, some workers may not be physically prepared to get back to work.

Be ready for potential changes in:

  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Muscle strength
  • Joint mobility
  • Weight
  • Physical Endurance

Associates may also return with challenging psychosocial issues including fear, anger, confusion, depression and uncertainty about their future — factors that can increase injury potential.

If you’ve been integrating ergonomics into your workplace all along, this restart may not create significant musculoskeletal injury concerns, because good ergonomics design is proven effective at accommodating and enhancing the wide range of physical capabilities workers bring — a primary goal for sustainable companies.

Ergoweb cautions that wellness and administrative controls like stretching and strengthening exercises are not a replacement for good ergonomics design. They can serve as support to an effective ergonomics program, however, especially as production ramps up following idle periods like those caused by COVID-19 stay-at-home recommendations.

Here’s a free sample from our library you can download and use today. This routine includes exercises designed to benefit employees tasked with lifting in zones below the waist.

Just like there are no “magic bullets” to solve all ergonomics problems, there is no one-size-fits-all exercise or stretching routine. In fact, some exercise or stretching routines may increase the likelihood of injury, when, for example, they stress the very same body regions as do the work demands. That’s why exercise or stretching regimes must be carefully matched to the actual tasks being performed. Even then, such routines are not nearly as effective as good workplace ergonomics design.

It may be tempting to search the internet, download and distribute exercise content to your workforce, but keep in mind that much of the content you’ll find is very generic, and often geared towards changing body image rather than improving function and performance. Also consider the routines may not have been designed or properly vetted by a professional with a solid understanding of the anatomical, physiological, and biomechanical function of the human body.

Another challenge to workplace exercise and stretching routines following the pandemic are new social distancing and hygiene requirements — meaning most company wellness or onsite workout facilities are now closed or in limited use.

Ergoweb’s approach to strengthening and stretching exercise routines is to provide a library of routines matched to specific task types like lifting, hand-intensive assembly work, pushing/pulling, etc. The exercises are designed by a Doctor of Physical Therapy to be performed outside the gym, and can be performed without specialized or expensive fitness equipment. The routines are integrated with, and available on-demand to, companies subscribed to Ergoweb Enterprise™.