A holistic approach in terms of check-ups, preventive vaccines, follow-ups with doctors, nutrition education, exercise and stress management help in curbing lifestyle diseases.
By EDNA GOR
Anne, a mother of two has a six months old baby. She returned to work after the long maternity leave and on the first days, she struggled with the thoughts of how secure the child was in the hands of a stranger. Each day, she would lift her head every five minutes to the clock on the wall as home time seemed a distance away. She resolved to working extra hard to complete her assignments on time and leave work early. Two weeks down the line, her work was slower, her wrist would pain with every key she pressed at the computer keyboard. Shaking hands with her friends and clients became a challenge. Anne had developed carpal tunnel from longstanding hours of keyboard typing, manually pumping milk and lactating positions. Carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness, tingling, weakness in the hand because of pressure on the wrist’s median nerve. Many people struggle with carpal tunnel and at times, it is associated with other conditions like diabetes, neck injuries and wrong positioning of the wrist when typing or using the keyboard.
When it comes to workplace wellness, maximum benefits can be achieved if a holistic approach to health and well-being are employed. It goes beyond check-ups and health talks to the inclusion of programmes on body, mind and soul wellness. Only then will the employer and the employee enjoy the benefits of a wellness program.
Check-ups are essential and so are health talks but if there is no guided follow-up to solve a targeted health concern through a holistic approach, the wellness program will fail. Wellness does not nullify nor exempt conventional medicine but it integrates it with natural ways of healing and preventive mechanisms. The laws of food, exercise and positive mental attitude come to play.
Research shows that workplace health reduces absenteeism, increases stamina and employee’s morale and subsequently productivity. This is achieved by promoting a healthy working environment to prevent illnesses.
According to Labor Force Survey, UK 2015, around 80 per cent of the new work-related conditions in 2014/15 were musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), stress and depression. Musculoskeletal disorders range from carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff syndrome (shoulder pains), knee pains, muscle strain and lower back pains. MSD can cause reduced productivity as they generally affect one’s ability to perform tasks. Prolonged cases and severity can lead to bed rest. Lifestyle diseases follow closely causing half of hospital admissions in Kenya (2014.) This inadvertently increases the rate of absenteeism at work. The workplace is the centre stage for people’s overall well-being and a determinant of their lifestyle because this is where they spend most awake hours.
Creating a remedy
A proper wellness strategy is essential at any workplace in a form that is holistic, simple, affordable and effective.
Getting the right workplace equipment for every employee is a key preventive measure. Employers should therefore carry out an ergonomics assessment at the workplace. Ergonomics is the science of study that fits a job to a person and not vice-versa. A good ergonomics assessment puts into consideration the anthropometry (shape and size of the person), biomechanics (muscles, levers, forces and strength), environmental physics (noise, light, heat, cold), applied physics (skills, learning and errors) and social psychology. This assessment helps to implement the correct height of desktops and angle arching on keyboards. It helps with the correct posture as related to back condition, ramps and easy accessibility to shelves when lifting objects.
Employers and employees need a healthy lifestyle. A holistic approach in terms of check-ups, preventive vaccines, follow-ups with doctors, nutrition education, exercise and stress management help in curbing lifestyle diseases.
Simple measures include providing healthy snack options to substitute the usual mandazi and samosa, setting up ‘work kitchenettes’ for healthy lunch options, as well as coming up with activities that encourage moving more and sitting less. Companies could enrol their staff in a gym that has corporate rates or set up gyms on-site. Allow healthy relaxation breaks as a HR policy and if possible allocate a ‘relaxation’ area that can have social activities or a serene atmosphere with tranquil music to ease the mind and rejuvenate the senses. Additionally, employers can go the extra mile to enrol the management team in a wellness spa that offers professional services. To increase employee involvement, companies could set wellness weeks and appoint champions to carry out different activities.
Companies should then take corporate wellness as a serious determinant to a population’s well-being and a contributor to its bottomline. Care should be taken to get these services from qualified individuals and companies that provide a holistic approach in their programmes.
Dr. Edna Ngare-Gor is a Medical doctor and Director at Solace Lifestyle & Wellness Hub.