Are Your Employees Fit to Work?

The other weekend I came across a fascinating report titled Fit For Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders in the European WorkForce on Fit for Work Europe is an initiative committed to working with healthcare professionals, policy makers and patients to help improve the quality of working life for people with musculoskeletal disorders. This report is the product of a major study conducted by The Work Foundation across 23 European countries.

The information in the report was quite shocking to me to be honest. Even though addressing ergonomic issues is part of our daily work at Ergotron, I didn’t fully realize the magnitude of the problem. It’s alarming to read that over 100 million people in Europe suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain and that 44 million (one in six) have a long standing health problem that affects their ability to work. Or that these musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for a higher proportion of sickness absence from work than any other health condition.

With such numbers it’s not hard to imagine that the cost of all these people being out sick, or less productive because they’re not feeling well, is also large. The indirect cost from the impact on productivity is even larger than the direct cost of healthcare related to the illness (as much as nine times larger in the Netherlands!). So what does that all mean for European companies and economies? The report qualifies poor workforce health as one of the most serious barriers to growing prosperity and even states that the European workforce might not be healthy enough to drive the improvements in productivity required to maintain its competitive position in the world.

The ironic part to me is the fact that over 40 million workers in Europe are affected by MSDs atrributable to their work. Stop and think about that for a second: it’s the work these people do, or the way in which they do it, that affects their health in such a way that they can’t be (productive) at work any longer….I don’t think that can be the goal of any employer, so there must still be a lack of understanding on how to prevent that.

The report provides a set of recommendations to reduce the increasing burden of MSDs in Europe. These include improvements to workplace practices and clinical and ergonomic interventions at an early stage to ensure that many more of the future generation of workers in Europe are fit for work.

How are you helping your employees get fit for work?