When it comes to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s), medical evidence shows that early physiotherapy intervention can help accelerate recovery and prevent acute conditions becoming chronic. In the workplace, the benefits of early access to physiotherapy are multifaceted and affect many departments.
With 3,000 employees across their UK sites, Polypipe Group is one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of piping systems, water and climate management systems. As is becoming commonplace amongst most workplaces there is an ageing workforce who can carry out a wide range of manual handling and physical tasks. Therefore this can mean a higher incidence of MSD’s in the workplace, which Polypipe acknowledged needed support.
In August 2020, Sano Physiotherapy Ltd were commissioned to conduct a 6-month on-site physiotherapy pilot at Polypipe’s Doncaster site, focusing on:
- Facilitating rapid access to specialist occupational health physiotherapy services.
- Improving employee wellbeing and enhancing work engagement.
- Reducing presenteeism and the potential for MSD related sickness absence.
While the impact of absenteeism is relatively easy to quantify, presenteeism (or the phenomenon of staff working while ‘ill’ and therefore having decreased productivity) is a little trickier. Presenteeism is an issue that has an impact on colleagues who are forced to make up for lost productivity and is a burden on key stakeholders such as direct colleagues, HR, operations, and finance. Implementing a service that is designed from the ground-up to tackle this was key to Polypipe and is an essential part of Sano’s offering.
The pilot consisted of a weekly on-site clinic conducted by one of Sano’s Senior Occupational Health Physiotherapists. Polypipe were given customer-specific access to Sano’s bespoke practice and diary management system, which allowed their Occupational Health team to refer and book employees directly into their on-site clinic diaries.
Having access to a secure management system ensures direct endpoint communications and eliminates unnecessary proliferation of personal data. Another fantastic feature of using the practice management system is that it allows us to record specific data regarding each employee’s injury, department, shift pattern and other customer-specific information, which guarantees pertinent information is included in management reporting. This data allows us to see trends and the potential need for proactive action.
Over the course of the 6-month pilot, 99.1% of all available appointments were utilised, demonstrating high engagement and that the service had the confidence of managers and employees.
Of all employees referred, 54% were treated and discharged after completing their course of physio and returning to sufficient recovery levels. 85% of all employees returned to full duties at work and reported at least a 75% minimum improvement in their physical symptoms.
This has numerous benefits to not only the employee themselves but to the whole business.
Based on the discharged employees alone, Sano were able to demonstrate a 279-day reduction in MSD related sick days. To quantify this, we use ‘predicted days of disability’. This is an evidence-based tool that relates to the prognosis for specific injuries, a prediction of the number of days of disability due to MSD, and if the condition should be treated at all.
Saving 279 sick days over a 6-month period is going to have a big financial benefit to any business. As we are unable to publish specific financial data for Polypipe, we have demonstrated below the representative financial savings associated with the pilot, using National Minimum Wage.
Assuming all employees’ earnings align with national minimum wage and they do not receive an enhancement on statutory sick pay, we can show a saving of £21,472 in just 6 months, which demonstrates at least a 2.5-fold return on investment for Polypipe.
Alongside financial ROI, there were multiple benefits to Polypipe employees that have been collated from employee satisfaction questionnaires:
|How likely are you to recommend the service to a friend or colleague? (scale 0 – 10)||9.75|
|Do you feel that this service has met your needs?||100% said yes|
|Has this service helped you manage the physical demands of your job?||100% said yes|
|Do you think this service has shortened your recovery time and/or period of incapacity||100% said yes|
|Do you feel this service has decreased the probability of you needing to go off sick from work?||85% said yes|
|If you have been off work, did attending the service make it easier to be able to return to work quicker||100% said yes|
Other notable comments from employees:
- “It is commendable of Polypipe to make this service available to its employees.”
- “This has made a significant improvement to my health and with my ability to sit comfortably at my desk and carry out my duties.”
- “Very positive experience. The physiotherapist is very friendly and knowledgeable. Excellent service.”
- “This service has helped me so much; I would have been on sick if I had not had this treatment. Everything the physio has done and the exercises she gave me, worked a treat”.
Following a successful 6-month pilot that delivered benefits for all facets of the business, Polypipe has confirmed a wider, multi-site roll-out of Sano’s services across the group and Sano are looking forward to benefitting more of their employees on a wider scale.