I knew from the age of 10 that I wanted to help people who are faced with barriers to develop and grow. Initially, as a teacher for children and adults with special needs, and now as a specialist occupational physio, the desire to improve lives, overcome obstacles and empower people to achieve their best self is what drives me.
In 1997 I completed my 3 year BSc hons degree in Physiotherapy. Since then, I have enjoyed working in both acute hospital and clinic settings. In 2007, I decided to launch my own physio business, The Valley Clinic. I dreamed of bringing together a full range of complimentary treatments around a core of high quality physiotherapy. My aim was to treat the whole person and focus on wellness, not just the immediate injury. Over the last 11 years I have built a team of fantastic physios with a depth and range of specialist skills. The physiotherapy is supported by a wide range of complimentary therapies that can be tailored to the individual and enhance mental as well as physical wellbeing. This year it was a thrill and an honour to be named Ilkley Business of the Year for Health and Leisure.
Increasingly it became clear to me that I was regularly treating people who suffered pain and repetitive strain due to incorrect work postures, poor work station set up and movement patterns that put them at risk. Frustratingly, although I could treat them and relieve their symptoms, getting these patients fit; I could not get at the root cause. In order to best prevent recurrence, I needed to observe and advise individuals in their work setting.
As a physio, I was very aware of the importance of sitting correctly and having a good work place set up. I was frustrated that I could not do more to help prevent the injuries we were seeing. When I spoke to local employers, I received real interest and positive feedback. However, it was clear that business owners and managers were unsure of what approach they should take. Because of this, I hired a specialist occupational health physio and added this service to my growing practice. I felt so passionate about this area of wellbeing, that, in addition to my other physiotherapy qualifications, I went on to gain my professional qualification in occupational health physiotherapy. As I worked with more and more businesses, I developed and refined an approach to help business owners support wellness within their employees.
Before launching the service, I thought I should ensure I was practicing what I preached. Wow! Only when I stopped to ask the physio’s and office staff about their comfort, and when I assessed each work setting, did I see how I had neglected my own staff. As my business had grown, I had provided the physio’s with inexpensive office chairs. As physio’s spend most of their time on their feet treating patients, the desk, chair and computer set up seemed inconsequential. When I stopped to analyse how they worked, I realised how much time they spent sitting writing notes, doing admin and talking to patients. Much of that time was spent using a laptop.
Even where I had invested time and money setting up the office and reception work stations, I had failed to keep pace with changes. For example, the chair that was great for my previous 5’10’’ manager was not adapting well to her more diminutive successor. It was sobering. I had just slipped quietly into some poor practices and it hadn’t occurred to me that my valued staff wouldn’t complain or ask for support.
I addressed the issues with some new laptop stands, external wireless keyboards and a foot rest. I now feel confident that my valued employees are at less risk and are healthier and happier. I know from their feedback that they feel valued and appreciate the support. The risk of work place injury is much reduced, which also saves me time and money while preventing suffering on the part of my colleagues.
I have seen this pattern repeated in many, many of the businesses with whom I work. It is all too easy to slip into a situation where staff are at risk, productivity suffers, and work-related injuries and absence increase and go unnoticed. Staff rarely complain, or ask for help (even physios!), so managers are often unaware there is an issue, and the problem goes unreported and unresolved.
There is be a better way. A way to prevent this cycle developing, and if it is occurring, a way to break out of the downward spiral before it becomes serious. Over the past year, I have developing a dynamic approach to helping business owners and managers tackle these issues. I call this the “Workplace Wellness Programme”. I am currently interested in speaking to any local employer who is interested in ensuring they meet their legal obligation to support occupational health whilst improving productivity, reducing absenteeism and showing their employees that they are valued.