The Wizard of Bod – how to support your employees’ health in post pandemic times

Over the course of the pandemic, muscle and joint (or musculoskeletal – ‘MSK’) conditions have escalated and been exacerbated by difficulties in accessing medical services. So why are MSK conditions an issue for businesses, and how do they impact on employees?

Why are muscle and joint (MSK) problems important at work today?

Our working world has been turned upside down. With fewer that 15% of employees returning to the office full time in many businesses and widespread adoption of hybrid working models, home-working is here to stay. With many advantages to this new way of working it remains challenging on a lot of fronts. Many employees have spent the past 2 years working on their sofa, bed or a wonky kitchen chair, leaving numerous suffering from work related aches and pains. The impact of this on not only productivity, but the lives of employees, is enormous. For employers there is a financial impact with figures from NHS England and the Office of National Statistics suggesting that muscle and joint problems costs employers an average of £180 per employee per annum.

Have employers supported employees duty of care during the pandemic?

It can be difficult to ‘see’ the true issues developing with remote workers. Whilst many employers have provided equipment to employees at their homes, houses and flats often lack the space to set up ergonomic workstations and flatmates or partners compete to grab the best working locations. This has led to poor working practices and sometimes, unusual tactics. We’ll always remember a Teams call with someone, it transpires, who was sitting on a (closed) toilet – he explained that it was the only peaceful location he could find. But there are more challenges than just office ergonomics. Not only have people experienced a wide range of physical stresses, the number of people with mental health issues has escalated too. Less well-known is that most people with chronic and long-term pain also experience anxiety or depression, and this cocktail is a major contributor to long term absenteeism.   

How did the pandemic affect employee MSK health?

The impact of the pandemic on muscle and joint (MSK) problems was highlighted in a study by BUPA which found that 6 in 10 people were experiencing MSK issues, driven by changes in our lifestyles over the pandemic. Another reason for the growth in MSK conditions has been widespread weight gain (aka the COVID kilo). Around 30% of the global population gained pandemic weight – lifestyles have been far more sedentary whilst alcohol consumption and comfort eating have also increased. Many people struggled to keep the same levels of activity when working from home, the bed to desk walk is no match for leaving the house to go to the office, which adds a lot of steps to your daily life. This reduction in regular activity, combined with periods of illness and hospital stays has led to widespread deconditioning of our population which makes it physically harder to return to previous activities or working schedules. Furthermore, a recent survey of over 350K people suggests there are around 1.3m people with Long COVID symptoms in the UK, supporting the significant need to rehabilitate individuals or offer graded programmes to help employees return to previous roles and levels of activity.

So where does this leave employers?

Regardless of the pandemic’s impact, employers have a duty of care to protect their employees from harm which can be challenging with a remote workforce and little visibility of working practices. The difficulties associated with ensuring good ergonomic work setups remains a challenge hence the incidence of injury continues to have an impact on employees. Those with muscle and joint problems are understandably less productive and effective in role too. If you’ve ever been in pain you’ll know it’s difficult to focus on anything else – it’s a powerful distractor. For this reason, Health & Wellbeing initiatives have flourished since lockdown.  

What are the next steps to improving your organisation’s  MSK wellbeing?

Many businesses see digital wellbeing tools as a simple way to offer scalable solutions to support their employees. PhysioWizard® is a unique tool that helps employers and employees better manage muscle and joint (MSK) problems. Used by large corporates and national healthcare providers, PhysioWizard® provides early stage help to employees with muscle and joint problems to ensure problems are managed quickly and effectively. The easier it is for employees to access this help, the quicker the issues are resolved, which supports both employee health and the bottom line.

Get in touch at hello@physiomedics.com or follow us on LinkedIn for more information on how this could work for your organisation.

PhysioMedics™

PhysioMedics™ is a pioneering digital healthcare technology company that creates software tools to improve efficiencies in managing MSK disorders. PhysioMedics™ has built “PhysioWizard®”, the world’s first clinically validated and CE-marked digital triage platform which enables patients to self-assess muscle and joint problems online. The PhysioMedics™ team brings a wealth of experience, offering clinical, commercial and technical expertise, to support organisations in encouraging and promoting a healthy workforce whilst improving productivity, business performance, staff morale and employee engagement.

Article by Kirsten Lord, Founder and Chief Clinical Officer of PhysioWizard®, who also founded PhysioMedics™: a technology company that aims to improve the experience of those with muscle and joint conditions. Physiotherapists have the rare opportunity to make a significant impact on people’s lives and Kirsten recognised the potential of software to deliver personalised care at scale, for the wellbeing of numerous people.