May 2017 Newsletter:

Coaching Your Worker 'Athletes'

Returning to work after an injury is a physical and mental challenge. Not only are physical capacities limited, but there is also an element of uncertainty that workers must overcome: workers may underetimate their abilities and hesitate to complete work that�s within their limits, which can hamstring their productivity. They may also overestimate their abilities and push too hard, too soon, which can slow down the recovery process. Much like athletes, workers can benefit from individualized coaching that helps them address the challenges they may be facing.

This coaching can cover any aspect of the workers� job that may be impeding their return to work. Some areas that may be covered are listed below:

  • Work method techniques: provide feedback and give cues to improve or change technique to allow the worker to work within their restrictions. For example, we often ask a right hand dominant employee to use their left hand for specific (non-fine motor) tasks to reduce right upper limb usage if they are having right hand/wrist or shoulder issues.
  • Postural feedback: the worker�s habitual way of completing a task may put more stress on the body than necessary. Coaching can help the worker to try new movement strategies that reduce work done by th injured area, and overall effort made by the body.
  • Lifting limits: help the worker identify objects that are within their strength range, and give clear direction on what to do with objects that exceed it by weighing objects and discussing strategies for partner lifts, etc.
  • Workstation layout: in some cases, the worker has choice on where part bins, totes, etc. are placed within their workstation. These choices can have an impact on their injury and discomfort. Whenever relevant, a review of the layout and potential concerns should be considered as part of the coaching strategy.
  • Stretching and activation: coaching specific activation exercises and stretches can help the worker relieve discomfort and restore blood flow to the sensitive area.

Good coaching closely resembles good teaching: it�s important to explain why changes are being proposed and how they will help the worker manage their unique challenges. It also should be collaborative: if the worker�s insights and opinions are considered, they will be more engaged and more likely to follow through on proposed changes.

Improving movement is an on-going process, but helping workers identify habits that put them in harm�s way is a good step towards ensuring their long-term health and productivity.

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