Posted By Westfield Health

Posted on6th March 2024

Musculoskeletal (MSK) health is key to maintaining good function of our physical bodies. Approximately a third of people in the UK live with an MSK condition, causing lasting effects on productivity, presenteeism and absenteeism in the workplace. Workplace support for MSK conditions is one of the most important factors when it comes to aiding recovery or managing chronic pain.

In 2022-23, MSK-related absences in the UK accounted for 29.9 million lost working days at an estimated cost of £4.3 billion. As well as improving individual outcomes, investing in ways to help support employees with their MSK health can help them return to work faster and create a more positive workplace culture.

Promote good posture to prevent injuries occurring

Maintaining good posture and form during work creates positive musculoskeletal habits and supports overall health and wellbeing in the workplace. A strategy for managing musculoskeletal disorders should be outlined in general risk assessments as well as assessments for specific activities to reduce the risk of injury or strain.

Some risk areas outlined by the HSE include:

  • Manual handling
  • Repetitive work and awkward positions
  • Health risks associated with display screen equipment
  • Exposure to vibration

Following from this, employees should know how to report injuries and work-related health issues to their management or health and safety team. This will help identify any problems that may need further investigation and ensure that employees are putting health and safety training into practice and not slipping into what could be damaging posture or form.

Further reading: Musculoskeletal health at work | Westfield Health

Help employees claim back costs with a health cash plan

In January 2024, our research found that 34% of people are worried about not being able to access the NHS, making workplace support for MSK conditions even more valuable. Investing in health cash plans for your business allows your people to claim money back towards the cost of essential healthcare.

Some of the included therapy treatments can be used to treat MSK conditions. The treatment options included in health cash plans can include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Osteopathy
  • Homeopathy treatment

Treatments such as physiotherapy can assist with pain management, rehabilitation, prevention and improving physical function. With help from a health cash plan, employees can get treatment fast and claim back up to 75% of the cost, up to set limits, when you are referred to a registered therapist through a GP or consultant.

Further reading: Common questions about physiotherapy | Westfield Health

Mental health first aid at work

Physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked. The pain and loss of mobility associated with MSK conditions can be tiring and have a negative effect on our mood and mental health. The Office for National Statistics found that nearly 40% of adults with MSK conditions experience persistent anxiety and over 20% battle with depression. By creating support for mental health at work, businesses can provide support for these often-overlooked symptoms of MSK conditions.

Our mental health puzzle research found that employees took an average of 4.8 days off due to mental health in 2023. Investing in mental health first aid training will equip your people with the skills to spot the early signs of mental health issues arising in the workplace, start supportive conversations and guide people to seeking the appropriate professional help.

Tailored employee assistance programmes (EAPs)

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are one of the most popular employee benefit schemes, but they must be suitable for your workforce and promoted regularly to make sure people are aware of the support on offer.

EAPs could include various benefits that help businesses provide workplace support for MSK conditions:

24/7 DoctorLine
Employees can arrange a call back or video consultation from a practising UK GP or clinical pharmacist, to assist them if they’re struggling to access their regular GP.

Gym discounts for nearby gyms and health centres
Employees can use discounts for health spaces to help build muscle, stay active and prevent MSK conditions.

Advice and structured counselling sessions
As part of the 24-Hour Advice and Information Line, employees can access support on various topics, including mental health, which could include up to six sessions of structured counselling in a 12 month period.

Active spaces

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to gain health benefits and prevent disease. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing long-term MSK conditions.

Having a dedicated active space area in your workplace is ideal to encourage employees to be physically active and help manage existing conditions.

A flexible fitness room or space within the office can have a huge impact on physical wellbeing and be useful for employees that have been prescribed exercises to strengthen muscles relating to their MSK health. These spaces can be used for anything from lunchtime fitness classes to standing meetings, giving employees the opportunity to be more active throughout the day.

Further reading and resources

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