Knees up to Health and Wellbeing in business.
I attended a seminar at B.Braun Medical Ltd where I work managing their Employee Health and Wellbeing programme this week. The subject was Aesculap knee replacements and how technology is increasingly playing a role in a surgeon’s ability to ensure greater success through precision alignment.
It was fascinating. Working for a business that supplies such innovative products to the NHS it was just as interesting to hear about the role of exercise in rehabilitation. Equally so was the dispelling of myths such as – ‘runners will be more prone to knee injury’.
In fact marathon runners and people that exercise provide themselves with a loading effect on the knee that helps sustain knee health and thus are less prone to knee problems overall. Of course as we age things wear out and that’s fact. But again regular exercise plays a key role in maintaining function of our bodies through our lifespan from the cardio system, muscles, bone strength and joints.
Our bodies, bones, tissues and muscle work in harmony to defy gravity and enable us to move. Our heart (a muscle), responds to physical activity adapting to the load we put on it. Our muscles adapt and increase in relation to our activity levels, weight training and the ‘loading effect’.
Indeed in Space, where gravity is nil, NASA conducted studies to try and maintain strength through exercising 5 hours a week in space but still saw up to a 32% decrease in peak power in the calf muscles. Wow. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/245.html
This study is particularly interesting in relation to the older population in terms of how we lose strength (muscle atrophy), and indeed what might be the most effective exercise programmes to help maintain strength. Why? Independency, lower admission rate into hospitals and improving overall quality of life.
Back to the knee – post operation. Some trusts are using wearable devices to monitor patients with knee replacements to make sure they exercise. A successful outcome, as often described by B. Braun Medical is ‘ the forgotten joint’. In other words patients carry on as normal with the same functionality as a natural knee joint.
To ensure this outcome exercise plays a key role in loading the knee to ensure functionality. Not only that but confidence in the knee from the patient. We were designed to move. So exercise yet again comes up as the miracle drug.
Of course this is not forgetting the studies into exercise and positive mental health benefits, reducing type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart issues, obesity and the plethora of conditions and health problems we could reduce simply by moving. I have covered these in more depth in my previous blog posts.
Exercise therefore can play a vital role in business by creating a sustainable workforce, staff retention, decreased absences and accommodate an ageing workforce that is more than likely going to be in work longer. Reducing the wear and tear through inactivity, but providing a work environment that nurtures movement and promotes health is the same clinical method to managing pre and post operation patients. Whole health.
So a healthy business needs a thriving workforce see – https://andrewjamespicken.com/2017/09/22/healthy-workforce-healthy-business/
Indeed a workforce that is adaptable, engaged, rewarded and provided with opportunities to move more will ensure business function and success. Just like the human body.
Employee Health and wellbeing (H&W) has undoubtedly gained momentum. No longer the elephant in the room, the monthly free fruit or odd exercise class thrown in, but now a function or dedicated role in Business with a pivotal part to play in responding to employees varying needs.
H&W links and transcends business functions. Human resources, Health and safety, pay and benefits, brand building, marketing and the emerging growth of CSR roles. The synergy is clear to see.
It’s a vehicle to aid communication, align departments in big business together or minimise employee absences in smaller businesses that can have huge effects on business operations. Its ‘ethical’ or ‘the right thing to do’ origins have been replaced by the business tangibles. Hard fact ill health costs. For instance mental health lone costs the economy a staggering £70 billion a year. (Source: Public Health England).
H&W is also dynamic and diverse. In the not too distant future workforce demographics will change. It won’t be uncommon to have a young apprentice working alongside a 70 year old. The workforce is an ageing population. How do we cater for the different needs of our employees? Or how do we ensure ‘active ageing’ to support people in work longer through H&W embedded in HR strategy and Occupational Health services.
Workplace environments will have to change, policy will need to be redefined and therefore embedding such things as a proactive H&W strategy now will save £££’s compared to a reactive approach. Physical activity and movement is a compelling business case in itself to manage and reduce risk across multiple factors including long term absences attributed to conditions related to inactivity.
See the workplace health video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7Knn5qzMuM
How do we do this? 10 minutes of movement (walking for example) in regular bouts to break up long sitting periods at the desk. Stair use instead of the lifts – active travel – cycle / walking to work where feasible. It fosters the culture that we need to create. See Public Health England’s active 10 campaign ACTIVE 10
With these changes comes opportunities and challenges. A one size fits all H&W approach isn’t the answer. A few sporadic health initiatives here and there are not enough to make a meaningful impact on the metrics used to evaluate its impact.
At Board level H&W is hard tangibles. What is the ROI / Business case and how does this work toward the corporate objectives and vision? This conjures a question. For H&W to even have a chance to succeed it must be at the very top level of an Organisation. It must be credible, recognised and feed into major business growth ambitions.
It is the same as someone going for a few walks to improve fitness levels every so often over a year. It’s not enough. To succeed in fitness the ‘exercise load’ needs to be consistent and regular. H&W strategy needs to be consistent and the load changed. Diversity, variety and underpinned by behavioural change methodology will help engagement.
H&W is no longer a nice to have, but a mechanism to drive growth through a sustainable workforce and influence policy to reflect the changing world around us. The Private sector is arguably better placed at this than the public sector, able to respond and drive innovation through its own product design that can translate to its own in house policy to foster healthy working practices at all levels.
The public sector is in some ways the vehicle that delivers the communication and evidence base for health and wellbeing very well – with little ambition internally of how it implements that agenda to its own workforce. That’s my own opinion. However its private business that has the ability to respond with practice and become a leader in the unprecedented growth of workplace health and wellbeing which increased movement plays a huge part in.
Health and Wellbeing Consultant
National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine (Sheffield)
Facebook: manbeast28 / Healthinbusiness28