IMPLEMENTING A WORKPLACE STRETCHING PROGRAM
Stretching programs most likely can benefit your workplace. Many companies across the range of industries have successfully implemented pre-shift / midshift stretching programs for their employees (scheduled during paid time). There are several good reasons to do so – to improve the health and safety of your employees and to reduce workplace injuries.
Prior to beginning any new program, it is best to determine what your desired outcomes are, how you plan to get there and what you hope to accomplish along the way.
Follow these simple steps to help make your stretching program a success:
- During the planning stages, determine what outcomes you wish to see from your program. Do you want to prevent all strain and sprain-related injuries? Is this program being implemented to prevent workers’ compensation claims? Or is it being implemented to increase overall health and wellness of your employee base? Understanding the reason(s) behind the program will help you tailor it to your specific needs.
- Obtain buy-in: get your management on board. This type of program will not succeed if top and middle management are not totally supportive. Once management is on board, get buy-in from employees. How you present the program will determine how employees embrace it.
- Involve a professional. A doctor or physical therapist is strongly recommended. A medical professional will bring credibility to your program and will help ensure it is designed for success; as needed, these professionals can fine-tune the program for the specific work of your business.
- Determine how you will roll out the program.
- Develop posters (and consider cards as well) showing the stretches.
- Educate employees on WHY the program is being implemented. Why are you doing this? Are there injury issues that might be prevented with this program?
- Identify stretches (based on individual jobs, tasks, etc.) and identify stretch leaders. Usually, programs start with supervisors as stretch leaders, with the possibility of line employees taking over those roles.
- Schedule follow-up sessions with the doctor or physical therapist (every six months at the beginning and then decreasing in frequency) to ensure everyone is using proper technique.
- Make it mandatory for the employees who most need it – those who work their shifts in essentially the same position (sitting or standing) or who regularly lift heavy objects or get into “awkward” positions. And strongly encourage everyone else.
- Focus on good ergonomics and body positioning.
- Educate about positions or stretches to avoid – and why.
- One challenge is that all stretches must be safe and appropriate for all levels of employee fitness. Many stretches can be done while sitting on a chair.
- Avoid stretches that put employees on the floor. But do consider giving employees a handout or cards of additional leg and back stretches for their home use.