3 Wellness Tips for Industrial Jobs

Industrial worksites face unique challenges when it comes to employee health.

If you follow the Active SWV newsletter, you’ve probably heard us talk about equity a fair amount. Usually, we think of equity in terms of underserved or minority populations. In the workplace wellness lens, equity also extends to the nature of the job. Desk-ercise, ergonomic office furniture, step challenges… these are all pretty common wellness topics in the office environment. But what might wellness look like in industrial or labor intensive environments?

Wellness in these workplaces comes with its own set of challenges. For example, industrial workplaces usually operate on shifts. This means more effort is needed to reach all employees. Additionally, the nature of these jobs can be physically demanding and require employees to remain at a specific post for several hours. In this case, go-to wellness initiatives like a step challenge might be less appealing. Another real challenge is gaining buy-in from employees. While the percentage of females in industrial jobs is higher than it once was, this is still a majority male workforce. Unfortunately, males continue to be less likely than females to seek medical attention or take preventative health measures.

None of these challenges mean workplace wellness is impossible; only that it may look different. Here are just a few strategies to address the challenges above.

1. Use relatable terms

Using relatable terms can be rephrased as, “know your audience.” Really this is a good marketing strategy no matter what your work environment is. Let’s say your wellness committee has identified a high percentage of your employees have or at risk for back pain and arthritis. Some simple yoga exercises for a few minutes each day could significantly reduce pain and prevent worsening effects.

But imagine your workforce is 95% males age 25-50 who are showing up in jeans and steel toe boots for their 10 hour shift. “Yoga” might have a connotation that doesn’t resonate with them. If yoga conjures an image of super athletic people in colorful workout pants twisted into a pretzel shape in front of a stunning vista, you probably feel this is not possible or desirable for you. But, if you’re familiar with the practice, then you might know that there are many small, subtle but affective movements that you can do even while wearing your jeans and boots.

How do you convey that in a way that gets buy-in from employees? You might try different language. Compare the examples below:

Yoga to lengthen the spine and open the shoulders
Stretches to manage back pain and increase shoulder mobility

Both of these could reference the exact same set of movements. But you probably have a different mental image for each. So consider how your audience might interpret your program descriptions and choose something relatable.

2. Make 5 minute stretching part of the work schedule.

So you’ve identified a 5 minute stretching routine that could address a health issue in your workplace. Now how do you make that routine accessible? Let’s look at the example of a manufacturing plant where the daily schedule must be highly regimented. Workers rotate stations throughout their shift on a specific schedule.

In this case, employees can’t necessarily take a break when they feel like it. But if the schedule has to be regimented, could a 5 minute stretching station be part of the rotation? Imagine station 3 has a poster illustrating 5 simple stretches that can be done for 1 minute each before engaging with the equipment at that station. This takes a minuscule fraction of the day, but will reach every employee in a highly accessible and approachable way.

When you designate time specifically for health and provide clear options of how to use that time, employees are more likely to take advantage of it. They don’t have to come up with their own routine unless they choose to, and they don’t have to worry about losing time on their lunch break to do it.

Additionally, posting physical activity posters throughout the workplace can be a key reminder to staying active. Free physical activity posters here

3. Encourage storytelling.

True of most wellness programs, not every employee will jump on board immediately, no matter how approachable you make the program. Let’s stick with the stretch station example above. Even though you’ve picked stretches that are beginner friendly, doable in the work uniform, and have a designated time to focus just on that exercise; some employees may still shy away from participating. Maybe they don’t think it will help or are nervous of how they might look trying something new on the factory floor.

This is where the power of storytelling can come into play. Identify those employees who are giving it a shot. Ask them to share their experience. Maybe this is a quote you post on the breakroom bulletin board, or a short video you share on your worksite’s social media. Perhaps it’s a matter of asking them to share about the benefits they’ve experienced at your next OSHA safety meeting. When reluctant employees see someone they know, respect, or simply relate to succeeding at something new they might be more likely to try it themselves. This is how a culture of wellness can grow, normalizing healthy habits.

Read and share success stories from Active SWV’s Workplace Wellness program here

Active SWV can help customize a wellness program for any worksite.

If you’re worksite could benefit from increased focus on employee wellness, consider becoming a member of Active SWV’s Workplace Wellness Program. Thanks to our supporters and partners, we are able to offer this program at no cost to several worksites each year. Read more about the program here. Contact info@activeswv.com if you’d like to see wellness programming at your workplace.