Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Workplace wellness is an intricately balanced element of the modern working environment. It's constantly evolving, and with new generations entering the workforce, we too are choosing to evolve in our approach to commercial interiors and furniture to suit.
Our latest change, is being able to offer our clients (new and current) the opportunity to work exclusively with one of Melbourne's BEST corporate osteopaths, , Heath Williams ( B.Sci M.O. Grad.Cert.Tert.Ed, Cert IV & Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE ) , and his team of focused professionals. Heath currently practices in his Melbourne CBD Osteopathic practice, Principle Four Osteopathy. Heath has previously worked as an Osteopath, Lecturer and Musculoskeletal consultant in Sweden and the UK.
Last week, we caught up with Heath to ask him all about what he does, why it's so important, how he has seen the office environment change in the past and sees it progressing in the future.
Keen to hear what he had to say? Check out his answers below:
B.C. “First of all, why did you get into corporate health?”
H.W. "I got into corporate health work by chance actually, after working initially as an Osteopath in the UK. Through engaging with individuals in the private practice setting, I found that health and wellness was largely becoming a focus.
The opportunity then came up with some individuals I had been working with to go along and see how our work together translated in the corporate setting, and it's just sort of spiralled from there.”
B.C. “What keeps you so passionate about it?”
H.W. "I enjoyed the greater level of interaction in a workplace setting, and could utilise my skills and experience to focus on injury prevention and management, health and wellbeing, and employee productivity. I still enjoy the variety that the corporate sector provides; it’s always varied and allows me the ability to impact more people than I would in a typical treatment room setting.
The workplace environment is constantly changing though, with new technologies, approaches and furniture coming out all the time. We’re beginning to also consider not only the physical issues that relate to people in the office environment, but also the mental or cognitive elements that are involved. I like the fact my corporate based role has become quite holistic which ties in well with the osteopathic principals.
As I said earlier, working in a corporate setting allows me to reach more people, and provide a greater, more positive impact on a business as a whole. It helps what I teach others to actually stick and be at the forefront of their minds.”
B.C. “How do you think the workplace environment has changed within the last ten years?”
H.W. "I've been working in the corporate sector of my business since 2006, so it’s been just over ten years, and I’ve seen a lot of changes happen during that time. Most are to do with the design of the workspace, as we seem to be moving away from the idea of each individual having their own fixed working cubicle or small office, and instead developing more open plan areas, that offer more dynamic movement, social interaction and collaboration.
You’ve also got work areas that are designed according to the job task at hand, and the needs of the individual, as well as those that are getting more specific to suit those roles.
The other key changes I’ve noticed is that of a more flexible environment, where employees are no longer just office based, but have the opportunity to work from home or more dynamically. People are working from café’s and different work sites where they can do consulting. That sort of thing has obviously sprung up from the rapid developments in technology like Ipads and smartphones, which not only drive those changes, but the generational ones. Younger employees are seeking out that flexibility and desire for constant change and stimulation within their working environment.”
B.C. “You’ve obviously done a lot of training in the past to become an Osteopath and then move into the corporate setting, how do you utilise this in your role?”
H.W. "There's a lot of foundation training that's helped build the principals of how I go about my osteopathic practice, while the ongoing training helps us stay up to date with the changes in legislation at work. I also seek out 'best practices' to learn about new ideas, how we can better our practice through innovation, and learn how to move with the times when it comes to differing corporate clients. There's a lot of training that I've done in the past which crosses over with what I do in my private practice as an Osteo, and the consulting work I do with larger corporations. Essentially, it comes down to improved communication at an individual level; improved communication at a business level and understanding their internal needs. Obviously having a greater understanding of musculoskeletal injuries is something that has developed over my years as well, which is still our primary area of focus and care.
As a team, we learn a lot about the key tasks and duties that lead to injuries occurring in the workplace from a human behavioural point of view, through to the physical set-up of office furniture and how the mechanics of that can lead to injuries occurring.
We also find that the broader training experience in general health and wellbeing, is something that helps us define the bigger picture of wellness, and that key element really filters through into everything in terms of how we work.”
B.C. “When you first broke into the industry, how did you educate people to understand the importance of what you can do for them as a business?”
H.W. "When we first got into this industry, it was very much a reactive type of service that we were delivering to corporate clients. Individuals were dealing with work place health related issues and injuries, and we would come in to help try and fix those things specifically. Having that 'foot in the door' gave us the opportunity to then discuss with the business our role around prevention, wellbeing and general productivity. That naturally progressed to creating specific services that focus on those key areas.
With that evolution of our corporate customers, and their need of being able to offer their employees options to keep their workers happy and healthy, they are now utilizing the offerings we have as a norm"
B.C. “Do you find now that you get more proactive clients than reactive?
H.W. "A lot more, a lot more. It used to be that back in 2010, when we started our practice in Australia, it was mainly reactive work. Now we are seeing about 50% of our clients being proactive, by actively seeking solutions for problems before they happen. It's a great change.”
B.C. “What opportunities and programs do you offer your corporate customers?”
H.W. "Our areas of strength are in office ergonomics and manual handling, as well as general education in health and wellbeing. From an educational point of view, our focus is offering health and wellbeing information through workshops and seminars which are often hosted at lunchtimes, and small group events that might encompass more physical elements like how to be more active within the workplace, stress management, nutrition, wellbeing, sleep habits, OHS, ergonomic and manual handling information. It's quite broad really, but we want to help clients in as many areas of their workplace wellbeing as we can, so they can tie it together and see the benefits unfold.
Job task analysis and physical assessment of the workstation is one of the major things we look at when working with new corporate clients. Things like screens monitor rises, foot rests, mouse and keyboard design need to be looked at to ensure employees have the right tools to suit their job, have maximum variation, and also that ability to manoeuvre easily while maximising desk space, like in those cases where people work with two large screens.
Based on that, our key services as a business, are definitely in office ergonomics. For example when a company has moved premises encompassing a new commercial fit-out, we can educate their employees on how to keep fit and active within the new workplace. We also use this opportunity to help individuals with their personal workstations as needed, teaching them how to work safer, minimise associated strains and sprains, and help injury prevention.
We use these same principals with roles involving more physical manual handling. It’s not just about the white collar roles that are often desk bound, or in sedentary office roles, but factory based work where manual handling has more of a precedence. We are able to concentrate on educating staff members in this environment around best practices within their role too. In this setting, it allows us to run through the basic principles and best practices of manual handling, and gives staff the opportunity to ask questions around this. It enables them to be better informed and educated around the risks involved in a more physically laborious role, and make better decisions to support their body now, and in the future.”
For a full list of services that Heath and his team provide, click the here
B.C. “When it comes to office furniture, what recommendations do you make to your customers?”
H.W. "If it's a new office, they're thinking of relocating or doing a refit, I would always want that company thinking about different work-zones within the workspace. Things like designing individual work spaces that might accommodate some sit-stand components, or some that optimise solely sitting and standing options, and then some break out areas where people can go to relax more or perform other work tasks for a change of scenery.
When it comes to the specific work areas themselves, it probably comes down to the individual and the job tasks that need to be performed. For example, an employee who is required to sit at a computer for the majority of the day would ideally have a sit-stand desk, good ergonomic chairs and associated equipment so it can facilitate that individual to move around a bit more within their work day. We want to look at furniture that specifically offers workers maximum customisation, adjustability and movement as a key consideration; while alternating between the position of sitting and standing for the recommended periods. Because of the shift towards more collaborative spaces in the office these days, we need to consider furniture options with the maximum amount of adjustability so that it suits 99% of the workers within the office.
Another thing that we utilise is software or other types of reminders that prompt employees to take breaks, sit, stand, move and hydrate. It could also be tech that allows pop-ups on their computers, showing them a range of stretches that they can easily do at their desk. It encourages people to think about their body more during the day, and doing things like stretches can ease tension in the body created through long periods of being inactive that lead to back and neck problems for example. Other technology that we recommend, can track time spent at the computer, key strokes or mouse strokes, which creates an analysis of potential risks related to that individual within their business role.
I quite like the fit-bits and the technology that you showed me the other day, the posture trainer, (Upright Trainer). These tools are great from a training perspective to encourage high-risk employees moving more, and I can only see that as a positive implementation within the office environment.
Things like foot rockers can be great also if the job involves a lot of standing at a desk, and synchro-tilt chairs are great for workers who need to sit for longer by enabling more dynamic movement throughout the day. I can’t stress the importance of movement enough.”
B.C. “Aside from working with businesses, you also have one on one clients. How does this work?”
H.W. "Patients come to us with particular issues who want to set up workstations to support their pre-existing conditions or musculoskeletal complaints. This is usually done directly at the office they work in, at their home-based office, or even their vehicle if that's their primary work space.
The typical consultation is about 15-20 minutes to make sure they are aware of how their work tools actually work, setting up chairs correctly to offer them the best support, their monitors are adjusted to correct their posture, where and how they should be sitting, and encouraging good movement behaviours.
However, if they have musculoskeletal issues, the consultation is likely to be 30-40 minutes where we take a detailed history around the medical issue, key triggers and aggravators, and then we look to formulate a management plan to ensure they aren't doing themselves more harm. We consider options like different furniture to give better support, changes in the way they undertake their work related tasks, consider if we need to help them with more assistance for certain job tasks, whether they require more regular breaks, or if the person needs to be referred to a health professional for a diagnosis and management plan that is out of our scope in order to create a treatment plan.”
B.C. “Lastly, from your perspective, how do you see the future of ‘workplace wellness’ evolving in the future?”
H.W. "We will see more and more technological innovations for the working environment, including education for employees around health and wellbeing while at work.
Another trend that is picking up is more flexible working environments, such as working from home, cafe's and other environments and less of a need to go into the office environment. This of course is due to the fact that people are so easy to contact via smartphones, tablets and computers, and that’s only going to further evolve.
I believe we will also see evolution of the office environment from rigid desking, to maximising more open environments that encompass more greenery, natural light and other elements of nature such as air-flow through functional design. You need to have areas that support productivity, relaxing and recovery, and boost mindfulness in the workplace, and going forward, more employers will come to understand this."- Monique Elouise for Balance Commercial
As a Commercial Office Interiors & Furniture business, we are aligned with bringing workplace-wellness to the forefront of our customers minds, to help them become proactive instead of reactive, and offer solutions that have not been available in the past. We actively search for new innovations to support spinal movement, back care, opportunistic rest and restoration through technology such as the 'energy pod', install monitor arms for double or triple monitor users, offer workplace analysis of workstations, provide individual education around how to correctly use our furniture in the office setting, and offer ongoing assistance for any product you buy directly from us.
While Australia may be on the back foot of the 'workplace wellness' trend, it's great to see that more allied health professionals and employers are instigating these changes to provide more supportive, healthy, productive working environments for their employees. We look forward to tracking these changes, and continually stay ahead of your furniture requirements.
For more information about the services mentioned in our blog post, you can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for post-install training and ergonomic set-up, or our new allied health partner via his websites: www.corporateworkhealth.com.au or www.principlefourosteopathy.com
Wishes in wellness,
The Balance Team