Morning movement and stretch programs can do more for you than you think.
Points to changing how you move.
It does not matter what we do for work, outside of work, or where we are, movement is key to doing anything. Even static positions are movement. Muscles must attain a certain level of synchronized firing or you would not have the ability to sit. Anyone that has even minimal neurological deficits understands this. This truth is never more important than as we age!
Certain joints are designed to provide stability, while other joints promote mobility. Ball and socket joints are more mobile, while hinge joints such as the elbow and knee are more for stability. In the diagram below, you can see alterations between stable and mobile from one joint to the next.
The lumbar spine (low back) should be more stable, but because of hip or thoracic joint movement limitations, the low back must become the more mobile part. In these cases, chronic low back pain and injury result. Looking at the model, “S” meaning stable and “M” meaning mobile, notice that the S’s and M’s alternate. Now further look and compare between the model’s right side: “How We Should Be,” and the model’s left side: “How Most of Us Are.” One joint limitation can impact all other joints—not only how they move but more importantly their job function!
Also notice that if the hip range of motion becomes limited—stable—then the knee, a hinge joint that is considered stable, becomes more mobile.
The approach to morning stretch/movement programs and work place wellness programs linked below begin to address this.
Many organizations have some type of morning stretch program prior to the work day. They are often led by employees volunteering to lead the program. We consistently observe at various companies that many employees do not participate in the program. When asked why, the reasons are varied and some examples are:
“Stretching isn’t for me.”
“I don’t like it.”
“I do this at home.”
Such generalized statements led us to think: Why? We gathered some of these employees and asked them if they would help us in finding answers. What we determined is that many employees do not participate because:
They know their range of motion is very limited and they're embarrassed;
They're overweight and consequently cannot perform the stretches, and again are embarrassed, or
They think that stretching will re-aggravate prior surgeries or injuries.
Morning stretch programs should be designed specifically for these individuals, but are not. Allowing the morning stretch program to falter and die is a disservice to the employee.
Organizational managers and top executives can't be focused on output and EBITDA alone. Remember, it's the assembling employee that IS your means to achieve your output. If the employees are not educated and motivated to increase their physical abilities, the output will be continued accidents, inconsistent quality, longer output times and employee injuries.
If your stretching program is going through a similar decline, rather than scrapping the program welcome wellness companies in to revamp, teach, educate and motivate and continue to evolve the program. Stretching—proper, individualized stretching—requires professional education and in-person guidance.
Targeting the audience of employees that are very reluctant and may need this the most in order to prevent soft tissue injuries at work or outside of work takes a gentle touch, the right stretches, and a cheerleader’s loving enthusiasm to get them to stay the course.
I have been reading lately more and more articles on LinkedIn and other sites about what is truly most important in a company. Oleg Vishnepolsky, CTO of the Daily Mail and Metro.Co.Uk posted an interesting experience that gave opportunity for thinking and changing his actions titled, “Your most important assets are not your clients, it’s your loyal employees. If you take of your employees, they will take care of your clients." Then there is Brigette Hyacinth, writer and author about working relationships in companies, who posted on LinkedIn a similar topic, “Why You Should Put Employees, Not Customers, First!” Great articles to remind us that employees are individuals with high value.
And while this topic is not new, why are there so many articles and books on this topic? It is obvious that there is a truth behind the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care." This is an excellent company mantra. For employees are, at the very least, two things to a company: 1) a company’s largest operating expense, and 2), a company’s largest and most valuable resource. It is, therefore, critical for company executives to be the leaders in the manner they treat employees directly under them, as well as initiating programs that are powerful in the statement of how much a company cares for their employees. The business we’re in—preventing employee injuries through a multitude of proven methods—is a demonstrable way to say to all employees that the company cares. The benefits are two sided and valued by all recipients.
You may be able to visualize how the company can and should demonstrate outwardly their appreciation of employees, yet need a few easy methods to begin to institute and grow that care. Below are three methods that can be used that will send a strong message to your employees about company commitment to them.
Develop and start a strong daily stretch and movement routine.
Companies that already have morning stretch programs in use, take stock. It is quite possible that revamping and improving the program is in order. For companies that have never started a morning stretch program, this method will be a welcomed employee experience.
Why? Morning stretch and move programs provide not only physical flexibility and protection against injury, but daily educational moments as well. Executives and managers can use this time with employees to improve their knowledge of physical movement and fitness. Not all individuals will have the same knowledge base, and this is an opportunity to bring everyone on the team to the same basic level of understanding.
For educational background, our bodies really do not stretch the way we may think of when the word “stretch” is used. Yes, there are elastic components in the tissues, but, overall, the tissues inside the human body slide and glide over each other. In addition, static stretches—the most commonly used type of stretch in many morning routines—should be replaced with what is known as dynamic stretches, or in Physical Performance Solutions parlance, specific movements.
Research shows that static stretches used prior to highly repetitious or ballistic movements can actually slow down the muscle firing process in the body for a short period of time.
To turn a static stretch into a dynamic stretch, make the stretch more of a movement rather than holding the end position.
This type of movement increases the blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, therefore mimicking larger movement patterns that maybe similar to the movements used in the work station.
Also add movements that are the opposite of what is used in the workstations. Why? For example, if gripping electric drills all day is a common task, the forearm muscles, both flexors and extensors, become fatigued well before the worker notices fatigue or stiffness. Teaching workers how to move body parts in the opposite direction helps to encourage and facilitate the tissue glide that is normal in the body.
Develop and encourage employees to use these movements all throughout the workday. Research in this area repeatedly shows that altering movements is beneficial to tissues of the body in maintaining a proper tissue motion.
Institute a mentoring program for all employees.
In physical labor positions, many employees would like to step up and have the opportunity to expand their skills, yet feel that it’s not possible. Starting a mentoring program at this level is just as important as mentorship programs that may exist in management or elsewhere in the company.
Mentorships here can take on many forms and be kept simple. You might consider a reverse mentoring program. An example of reverse mentoring can be an employee mentoring a production manager on the assembly line. Managers aren't doing the work, so they may be missing some important elements that the frontline worker can see. More importantly, the relationship between a mentor and mentee is something that can foster respect across departments and job titles: a benefit that money can’t buy.
Another example of reverse mentoring is to couple an older employee with a younger employee. These methods help to increase the knowledge base across the workforce and build mutual respect. This reverse hierarchal mentoring is also shown to increase trust, understanding and engagement across departments and across a company’s entire organizational structure. Additionally, reverse mentoring is a positive method for gaining an accurate pulse of the culture of the company.
Developing a mentorship program:A H A moments: Agree, Hunger, Appreciate
Agree. Each party needs to define their goals. What are the expectations? Both individuals need to agree to these and any additional rules as the mentorship program is designed. Defining goals and expectations ahead of time helps the two to help each other gain the knowledge each one would like to gain. This helps to increase communication skills for both parties and certainly increases the work relationship.
Hunger.To learn! At certain times, even the mentor will become the mentee. Especially in reverse types of mentorship programs, both parties are learning new information as they share their ideas and concerns. All of this helps satisfy each participant’s hunger to grow.
Appreciate. Appreciation comes from the new knowledge and perspective that was shared. As I mentioned earlier, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. In mentorships, the building of new relationships builds a new level of acknowledgement and appreciation. That appreciation can result for many reasons. The salient point is that more individuals within the company now have a greater depth of awareness—interdepartmentally, intra-departmentally, and across the company’s organizational structure as a whole. Engagement will increase for the company as a whole. And, as a whole, the company will succeed! Because more and more employees will be on the same team.
Utilize specific employee surveys.
Employee surveys are not new. Most medium to large companies use employee surveys to gain insight on what is important to employees in aggregate and also to address specific areas of concerns for individual employees. We suggest a specific type of survey that will be used to impact the first two suggestions we’ve laid out here: morning stretch and movement programs, and mentorships. Via integrating the responses from this more specific survey, these two well-known methods can evolve, stay fresh, and engage employees, thereby becoming a true demonstration of the company’s appreciation of and care for its most valuable asset.
We focus on the wellness of individuals using a unique, multifaceted approach. Our techniques to normalize movement patterns, as well as increase strength and stamina, are proven in both industrial and private settings. Our approach saves companies unnecessary expenditure on workers compensation claims.
We continue to seek the best means in technology, manual therapies, and movement re-training to empower all clients. We will always provide superior and customized attention to all clients so they may achieve their mission.