Tag Archive for: workplace wellness


Is the Goal of Achieving Work-Life Balance Stressing You Out?

What is your impression of work-life balance? Is your goal to create this ‘balanced lifestyle’ actually increasing your stress level?  A lot of people find work-life balance a completely unrealistic goal that is impossible to achieve. Many find life demands are simply keeping them too busy to take time to relax.

As we have discussed before, stress can cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and immunity issues. Statistics Canada says that 1 in 4 adults reported high stress in 2013, and high stress means that your mental and physical health are declining.

The good news is that this is preventable. We simply need to change how we define “work-life balance” and create plans that will help reduce stress based on our individual situations.  The following video from our OT-V (Occupational Therapy Video) series will help shed light on how to create a healthy balance without increasing stress or guilt if this balance is not achieved every day. 

Remember Occupational therapists know the evidence behind de-stressing, and which activities give you the most bang for your buck when you’re low on time.  Contact an OT if you need help de-stressing and creating balance in your life. 


The A to Z of OT: W is For… Workplace Wellbeing

There are many ways that Occupational Therapists promote wellness and wellbeing for those in the workplace.  From ergonomics to accessibility; injury prevention to return to work programs, OTs assist in the workplaces in many facets.  We are going to focus on an important way that Occupational Therapists can assist employees and employers at work – by improving mental health.  Learn more about how OT’s can provide essential information and assistance to enable the support of mental wellness at work in our OT-V video below, or in our post,  Promoting Mental Wellness at Work.


October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!


Lunch Break Lunges and More…

It’s important to keep your body moving throughout a long day at work to reduce the risk of sitting disease and help prevent illness and injury.  Check out the following from The Active Times which gives you some ideas for quick and easy physical activity you can do on your lunch breaks.

The Active Times:  The 20 Best Lunch Break Exercises

Take a look at some of our additional posts on workplace wellness in our Healthy Workplace page.


Improve Mental Health On The Job

Mental health issues due to workplace stress and illness are on the rise.  We have provided many articles in our Healthy Workplace series on ways to overcome these issues.  Check out the following article from one of our consultants, Jennifer Holmes Beamer who is currently working in New Zealand, on great ways to combat stress and improve mental health at work.

Acknowledging and Improving Mental Health in the Workplace


Increasing Physical Activity At Work

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

While anti-smoking campaigns have been in effect for decades, more recent health promotion efforts are being directed at preventing obesity, heart disease and the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting, now called “sitting disease”.  As society experiences this paradigm shift away from sedentary activity, employers too need to be on board with solutions on ways to keep employees active when the job demands require continuous desk work.

If you are concerned about the effects of sitting disease and are looking for ways to increase health and wellness at work, the solution is actually simple.  Just start by getting moving!  If you are an employer and are not ready or able to invest in a comprehensive wellness program, or you are an employee and these are not offered where you work, start with some simple team-building challenges.  Consider the following:

1.       Stair climbing.   Try to challenge workplace to at 30 day “Climb It Challenge” where everyone takes the stairs.  Or if your office is too high up, no problem, take the elevator 5 floors below your level and walk the stairs from there.

2.       30 day squat challenge.  This is easy, requires no equipment and won’t leave your office team with the need to shower following.  Have those interested meet for 5-10 minutes a day and complete each day’s challenge.  This 30 day squat challenge has a daily plan you can follow.

3.       Bike or walk to work month.  This is easier to do in the warmer weather months, so try to challenge your team to walk or bike to work each day.  If you are in a remote location, or if employees commute, ask employees to park a couple of blocks away and walk or ride from there.

4.       Get your yoga on.  Each day with your team, take 10-15 minutes to run through some easy yoga poses to help boost posture and strength. Check out some of these beginner poses to try.

5.       Organize a walking lunch group.  Each day with your team take a 30 minute power walk at lunch or break time.  Walking is great for cardiovascular and bone health and will help to prevent the negative effects of sitting all day.

Working together with a team dedicated to improving health and wellness will help to keep individuals motivated and on track.  In the end, don’t forget to celebrate your success and keep the momentum going!

Check out more on staying healthy at the office on our Healthy Workplace page.


Cognitive Challenges at Work– There’s an App For That!

CanAssist is an organization at the University of Victoria with the mission of creating a better quality of life for people with disabilities.  They have created helpful apps, available on numerous devices, including the “CanWork” app which works to promote independence and build confidence by helping people with cognitive challenges at work.  The app helps individuals manage shifts, prepare for work and complete work-related tasks successfully.  It has just received endorsement from the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and we encourage you to check out the “CanWork” app and many of the other helpful apps created by CanAssist.

CanAssist:  Apps For Download



The Physical Demands Analysis – Risk Reduction for Employers, Employees and Physicians

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

As occupational therapists, we are often asked to coordinate return to work programs.  Often, this starts with an injured employee who has a note from his doctor saying he is fine to return to work – sometimes with a comment about modified hours or duties.  While it is great that doctors may recognize the difficult transition of going back to work after an absence or injury, I am always fascinated that they seem to approve return to work without having documented evidence of the demands of the job.  I see this omission as forming considerable risk to the employer, employee and doctor as I will explain.

However, before talking about risk, let’s clarify what I mean by a “Physical Demands Analysis”.  These are assessments of work positions that serve to outline all the different physical demands (and / or cognitive demands) of that specific job.  These are analyses of the JOB, not the PERSON, thus they showcase what any one person would need to do in order to complete the job successfully.  They cover demands (with objective measurements) for walking, lifting, standing, sitting, carrying, bending, climbing, stooping, crawling, finger dexterity, neck positioning, reaching, etc. and categorize these as things that are completed “never, occasionally, frequently, or constantly” to complete the job requirements.  Cognitive Demands Analysis are similar and include things such as attention, memory, visual perception, concentration, etc. – focusing on the mental demands of the position.

Now let’s talk about risk.

Employer Risk

Employers need to understand the physical demand requirements of the positions they fill.  And each workplace is unique regardless of similar positions and titles.  For example, the job of a Long Haul Trucker, Delivery Driver, Shipper / Receiver, or Stock Clerk are going to vary considerably based on the weights of the items, the distances to traveled or walked, and the positions the body needs to assume to get the job done.  Knowing this as an OT who analyses jobs, I wonder how employers not only hire for these positions when the demands are not typically transparent, but even more so, ensure appropriate medical clearance is obtained when an injured worker is returning.   I would worry, as an employer, that I would be liable for injuries caused to the worker had I not reviewed with them the demands of the position (via a detailed report) before they started.  Or, the risk of accepting and accommodating a worker’s return when they “told” their doctor what the job entailed and half of the information was not accurate.  In some cases it is important for employers to pre-screen people for the work they will be doing to determine the right physical fit.  This not only adds protection for the employer from a compensation claim, but also protects the worker from accepting a position that they don’t yet know exceeds their abilities. Further, if someone is injured (on or off the job), the employer should be ready, Physical Demands Analysis in hand, to send this report to any doctor, insurer, or rehabilitation professional that requires it.  Only then will you know for sure that the person is rehabilitated properly and any return to work has been based on the accurate demands of the job they need to return to.

Employee Risk

Not all jobs are suitable for all people.  That explains why some positions are more gender biased, why others require specific training, and why some can be competently done by high school students.  As an individual looking for work, it is important that people understand the nature of the job they will be completing.  This is more than just a job description.  For example, “filing” is fine as a job task, but maybe not if the cabinets are in the basement, there are two sets of stairs to get there, the files weigh 10 pounds each, and the employee has a previous knee injury.  Accepting a job is just as much about the employee feeling it is the right fit for them, as it is the employer feeling they can do the work.  People need to make informed decisions about the positions they are considering, and this needs to include the physical work that will be required, the environment in which it will be completed, and the risks involved from repetitive strain to lifting, carrying and reaching.  A Physical Demands Analysis tells them all this.

Physician Risk

I get that some people want (need) to return to work before they are ready.  And I also get that some never feel ready to return, or have other motivating factors to stay home.  In return to work cases the doctor (family doctor or hired physician usually by an insurer) becomes the gatekeeper between back to work and not.  What baffles me though is the doctors that make return to work decisions when they are uniformed.  I say “uniformed” because often this decision is made without the supporting documentation provided by a Physical Demands Analysis.  If the person says to their doctor “I can work” they often get a note.  If they say “my job is too heavy” then they don’t.  But what if both of these patient-driven comments are untrue?  Someone wanting or needing to work fearing ongoing loss of income or job security may not be able to meet the demands of the job, know this, but tell their doctor to sign them back anyway.  Then they become reinjured.  Or, one client that I saw told her doctor she had to lift 50 pounds so he would not approve a return, when after we analysed the job the maximum lifting requirement was 10 pounds.  Ideally, before anyone returns to work post injury, they should participate in a battery of tests that match their current physical abilities to the demands of their position.  Yet, these tests cannot be done without a confirmed and documented Physical Demands Analysis.  Lastly, the Physical Demands Analysis can also contain information about “modified duties” that would be available to an employee if injured.  Thus, if a doctor was not able to say that someone is cleared to do their previous job, they could reference the list of alternatives and provide clearance to an alternate position.  That gets people back to work faster while reducing liability risks to the employer, employee and physician.

In the end, having a Physical Demands Analysis report on file for every position within a company is an ideal way to reduce liability risk when hiring, to return injured workers to the job, and to prevent injury in the first place.  This report needs to be accurate, complete, and should outline the physical and cognitive demands of the position, in addition to recommendations about how to reduce injury and any return to work options for an injured person.  Employers need to be proactive – they should not wait for a lawsuit to expose this business risk.

And who is better to complete your Physical Demands Analysis than an “Occupational” Therapist?

For more on workplace health and wellness please refer to our Healthy Workplace page.