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Archive for category: Workplace Wednesdays

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Simple Stretches to Improve Health and Productivity

Humans are not made for immobility. Even if you take a healthy joint and put it in a cast for even a few days, when you remove this the movement of the joint will be decreased, pain will appear, and muscles that surround the joint will have started to atrophy. So, how does this translate to jobs that require us to sit all day, being immobile at a computer, in a car, or at a desk?

It’s important for your physical and mental health to involve frequent movement into your day.  Not only will this help you combat the negative effects of “sitting disease,” it can help you to become more productive.  Take a look at the following from Positive Health Wellness for some tips and simple stretches to incorporate into your work day.

Positive Health Wellness: 12 Quick Stretches to Boost Day-time Productivity

To learn more about Sitting Disease and how you can prevent the negative effects, take a look at our previous post, “Solutions To Stop Sitting Disease.

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How To Improve Mental Health at Work

When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, we are often quick to think of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and other physical injuries, but just as with health in general, we also need to make mental health in the workplace a priority. Nearly half of all Canadians experience some form of mental health concerns at work. Mental health issues are the number one cause of short term and long term disability leave.

The following video from our OT-V series discusses the ways an Occupational Therapist can work with employees, employers and medical teams to help employees overcome mental health stressors at work in order to be more productive and miss less time from work.

 

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Solutions To Stop Sitting Disease

The negative health effects of sitting for extended periods of time, coined as “sitting disease” has been a hot topic recently. Studies show that sitting for extended periods of time, as many of us do at work, while commuting, and even while watching television or reading, can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and a decreased lifespan. But while we need to work, how do we combat these negative effects?

Ergonomics addresses well-being and performance in relation to one’s job, equipment, tools and environment, with an overall goal to improve health, safety and efficiency of the worker and workplace. While the concept of ergonomics is no longer new, it involves much more than making sure your office chair is of the latest style. Due to the many different components involved in utilizing ergonomics to promote wellness and safety at work, some find it overwhelming and don’t know where to start. We’ve combined some of the most important and effective ergonomic tips together to make a quick reference guide for those looking for a starting point or those looking to brush up on their current strategies.

1.      Take frequent breaks: We’ve said it before and we will say it again. Regardless of the job and job demands, humans were not meant to remain in static positions for long periods of time. Taking regular, brief breaks throughout the day allows us to avoid maintaining static positions, awkward postures and repetitive motions that lead to injuries. It is also important in terms of our cognition as this allows us to recharge and refocus to maintain productivity. Consider taking a 2-3 minute break for every 30 minutes of work.

2.      Follow the rule of 90s: For those who are required to maintain sitting positions for long periods of time at their workstation, the rule of 90 degrees should be followed. This means that while sitting at a desk, a person’s knees, hips and elbows should each be resting at 90 degrees. This angle falls in line with our natural body proportions and biomechanics, and helps support proper posture and body positioning.

3.      Seating matters: In a similar manner, seating is a key component when looking to support ergonomics. Chair height should be adjustable such that the back is firmly supported, thighs remain parallel to the floor and the feet are able to rest flat on the floor or a foot rest. The chair itself should have a sturdy support base and wheels, to allow easy mobility over flooring as well as the ability to swivel 360 degrees to avoid twisting, reaching and bending to access other items around the workstation.  The more adjustable the chair the more you can fit it to YOU.

4.      Change positions regularly: Just as with taking frequent breaks, regular position changes are important to avoid injuries. Whether it be taking a break to walk to the filing cabinet, or standing while having a phone conversation, make sure that regular changes in body position occur over the course of the day. Some companies are moving towards installing mobile workstations, which can be transferred from sitting to standing height to allow employees to alternate between periods of sitting and standing to complete work tasks, making regular position changes a habit is an effective and free way to avoid injury.

5.      Inspect your screen: Many jobs today require long periods of screen time. If this is the case for your workstation, make sure that there is an arm’s length distance between your eyes and the screen. Also make sure that the top of the monitor or screen is level with your forehead. This allows for the head and neck to remain in a neutral position by avoiding continued periods of looking up or down. If a job requires frequent paper reading or phone use alongside computer use, consider a document holder or headset.

6.      Keep tools and frequently used items close to your body: Whether it be having your chair tucked in close to your desk, or the location of your keyboard and other frequently used items like the mouse and telephone, ensure that these items remain close to the body. This allows you to avoid reaching, twisting at the trunk or adopting other awkward postures to obtain and use these items.

7.      Stretch: This tip goes hand in hand with the use of regular breaks and position changes. Engaging in gentle stretching on a regular basis over the course of the day can address body stiffness and muscle tension in areas like the neck, shoulders and back. It also serves as a preventative strategy to keep the body moving and avoid injury before it happens.  Grab a list of some simple stretches for your neck, shoulders, wrists and back and do these a few times a day.

8.      Keep wrists neutral: Whether it be for keyboarding, use of a mouse or desk work, it is important that wrists are maintained in a neutral posture. This avoids potential for overuse and injury due to fixed postures of flexion. Try altering positions or using equipment such as a wrist rest to support the forearms.

9.      Lighting matters: Improper lighting at a workstation can lead to glare, visual strain, headaches and reduced concentration. Make sure that lighting is neither too bright nor too low and that the location and angle is appropriate for the specific work task.

10.  Ask for help: These tips are basic in nature and are meant to serve as general information. However, if you have more specific questions related to implementing ergonomics in your workplace, for a specific job or employee, seek the services of an Occupational Therapist. An OT can provide more thorough assessments and recommendations to maximize safety, health and efficiency at work.

Keep these principles in mind anytime you are in a static posture and are using a computer or workstation.  Prevention is always the best medicine to avoiding injury and lost work time that can be so disruptive for you and your employer.

Check out our free e-book “Cost Effective Ergonomics Solutions” for more ergonomic solutions.

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Text Neck—Are You Guilty?

The posture adopted by many people when leaning over a cellphone while reading and texting is becoming a problem. This bad posture that can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on the upper spine — sometimes for several hours a day, is a growing concern with long-term consequences.  Learn more in the following from The Washington Post and if you are suffering from text neck contact an OT for an individualized solution.

The Washington Post:  Digital disabilities — text neck, cellphone elbow — are painful and growing

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Lunch Break Lunges and More…

It’s important to keep your body moving throughout a long day at work to reduce the risk of sitting disease and help prevent illness and injury.  Check out the following from The Active Times which gives you some ideas for quick and easy physical activity you can do on your lunch breaks.

The Active Times:  The 20 Best Lunch Break Exercises

Take a look at some of our additional posts on workplace wellness in our Healthy Workplace page.

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Improve Mental Health On The Job

Mental health issues due to workplace stress and illness are on the rise.  We have provided many articles in our Healthy Workplace series on ways to overcome these issues.  Check out the following article from one of our consultants, Jennifer Holmes Beamer who is currently working in New Zealand, on great ways to combat stress and improve mental health at work.

Acknowledging and Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

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Chair Yoga Promotes Workplace Health

Co-written with Lindsay Sinclair, Occupational Therapist

Have you ever reflected on how much time you spend sitting at work? Do you ever try to find reasons to move around during the work day to resolve that restless feeling?  Do you ever wish you could take a moment during the day to relax and de-stress?  Perhaps Chair Yoga will be the answer for you!

In recent years, yoga has become the new “it” thing, with individuals of all age groups participating in this ancient activity. Originally created in India, yoga is a practice that combines breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming various postures to elongate muscles and promoting stretching. This time-tested practice aims to achieve harmony between the body and mind to increase overall well-being.

Yoga has many benefits, including positive impacts on physical and mental health. Yoga can help increase flexibility, reduce aches and pains, strengthen muscles, protect joints, and decrease the risk of arthritis. It can also enable us to cope with stress, improve focus and concentration, restore energy, and find peace of mind. These benefits may translate into increased productivity at work and enhanced satisfaction with work-life balance.

Chair yoga is a gentle style of yoga that can be practiced in a mostly seated position. It is particularly useful for individuals who are sitting at a desk the majority of the day, confined to tight spaces for long periods of time (ex: long bus ride), and individuals with mobility issues.

Seated yoga is a great way to take a break from the everyday stresses at work and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.  Check out About Health for some seated yoga poses you can try at work or at home!

For other strategies on how you can promote workplace health, consult an Occupational Therapist and check out our Healthy Workplace page.    From ergonomics to mental and cognitive well being, we are the profession that can promote productivity and function in the workplace.

 

photo care of About Health

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WSIB 101 – System Navigation after a Workplace Accident

Guest Blogger Jessica VandenBussche, Occupational Therapist

Each year, 1 of every 46 Canadians has a workplace injury that causes them to miss at least one full day of work. This translates to approximately $19B of costs to the Canadian economy; $43 000 per claim in Ontario. Both companies and the injured workers suffer losses in earnings and productivity, in addition to emotional or other indirect costs. Prevention is the number one goal to address workplace injury.  It is also important to know what options exist for those who experience illness or injury at work.

Other blogs in the “Workplace Wednesday” series discuss how an Occupational Therapy can be useful in the return to work process. However, the goal of this article is to provide basic information on how to navigate the various systems involved in providing resources for the injured worker. This is important because the length of disability can be prolonged, and the worker needs to be able to manage in the meantime.  Even though resources are available to injured/sick workers, many people have difficulty accessing these because they often do not know what is available, who to contact, or how to do the required paperwork.

One of the primary resources for workplace injuries is the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB, formerly known as Worker’s Compensation Board). The WSIB is a non-government, for profit trust agency that acts as a middle man to manage finances between any involved parties. They provide insurance to workplaces to cover expenses for individuals who are injured or become sick due to their work – regardless of fault.  This includes medical coverage, help getting back to work, and wage loss benefits.

The WSIB will fund occupational therapy assessment and treatment because OT’s have significant expertise helping people return to meaningful activities, and address underlying physical, mental and emotional issues that prevent participation in life roles.

Many workplaces are required to have WSIB coverage, and some who are not required choose to have this coverage regardless. A worker is eligible for compensation if their workplace is covered or is supposed to be covered by WSIB insurance.  Keep in mind, WSIB could still be available to those who do not have a work permit or are non-status. Phone the WSIB at 1-800-387-0500 (7am-5pm) to find out more information and if you are eligible for WSIB compensation.

Like any system, WSIB is not perfect.  Drawbacks of WSIB include:  long paperwork processing times which leaves the sick/injured worker without payment while they wait, workers can experience pressure to return to work too quickly, and claims for some injuries can be denied based on differing clinical opinions.

If you are covered by WSIB (or if you are unsure), fill out a Form 6 and mail/fax/deliver it to your closest WSIB office as soon as possible after you sustain your injury. Keep one copy for yourself and give one to your employer. Also report to a doctor, have them do a Form 8 and have them send it to WSIB. Have your employer fill out a Form 7. You can get these forms on the WSIB website, www.wsib.on.ca.

It is also important to know your options for compensation. Other options include:

·         Appealing a WSIB decision -Employment-based long-term disability plans

·         Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D)

·         Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit

·         Veteran’s benefits for disability

·         Tax Measures (Disability Tax Credit, which includes Tax Benefit Disability and Registered Disability Savings Plan)

·         Provincial social assistance disability services

These funding sources have different benefits and eligibility criteria’s. Many people find it useful to hire a lawyer and case manager or occupational therapist to help them find and advocate for funding and treatment. Occupational therapists are experienced in navigating these complex social systems. We can help figure out what funding an injured worker is eligible for by working with them (and their lawyer, if necessary) to recommend resources and to complete necessary paperwork. We also provide clinical opinions about how a worker’s physical, mental and emotional state contributes to their ability to work, and what help or modified work they need. Occupational therapists also have the knowledge and experience necessary in the healthcare system to communicate with other health care professionals (e.g. doctors) about how a sickness or injury relates to work function and what services are needed to improve this.

Workplace injury and sickness can have negative and life-changing effects. However, it is important that as a worker you understand your rights and advocate to obtain the help you need.  For more information, consider reviewing the links below:

Useful resources

WSIB website for WSIB information, stats, and forms:
www.wsib.on.ca

Worker’s Action Centre, for worker rights, news, forms and support:
ww.workersactioncentre.orgw

Government of Canada Labour Program, for information and statistics about the Canadian labour force:
www.labour.gc.ca/eng/health_safety/pubs_hs/oidc.shtml

Institute for Work and Health, for research and education about work and worker-related issues:
www.iwh.on.ca

Specifically, this document describes various sources of income security for Canadians with disabilities:
www.iwh.on.ca/briefings/a-patchwork-quilt

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Happy Ergo Month!

October is Global Ergonomics Month!  As Occupational Therapists, a large part of what we do involves ensuring proper ergonomics for our clients at work or school, at home and at play.  The following from the Public Services Health and Safety Association provides you with some great information and resources for Ergo Month.

For more information check out some of our articles on ergonomics and download our free E-book “Cost Effective Ergonomic Solutions.”

Happy Ergo Month!

The Public Services Health and Safety Association:  Ergo Month