- Expert organizations around the world are concerned about the declining trend in people’s physical fitness, from the point-of-view of performance at work.
- Firstbeat Technologies, a global leader in physiological analytics, has developed a tool that accurately measures how physically demanding workdays and specific work tasks in physically heavy jobs are.
- The data allows experts in this field to evaluate whether a person is physically capable of carrying out his/her assigned work tasks, and what kind of support he/ she might need.
According to the UKK Institute of Finland (Centre for Health Promotion Research), the weakened physical fitness of employees is becoming a challenge for sustainable work careers. Labor market organizations support the idea that physical activity and steps to improve the workforce’s functional capacity should be designated as one of the Finnish government’s flagship projects.
Firstbeat’s big data, based on 170,000 measured days, tells the same story: the number of people in poor fitness is increasing. In December 2020, the share of people in poor fitness in the Firstbeat database was 29%. Two years later, in December 2022, it had increased to 34% (based on the people who measured their fitness with Firstbeat’s fitness level walk).
Firstbeat has now tackled this societal challenge by developing a tool that accurately and reliably evaluates physical workload with heart rate and movement data.
The method is based on accurate estimation of maximal aerobic fitness (VO2max) and evaluation of the relative percentage of VO2max during different parts of the workday.
”As part of our comprehensive Firstbeat Life service, this new tool shows how much workdays and specific work tasks are physically stressing the employee. It also reveals if the risk limits of physical workload are exceeded for a given individual during some parts of the workday”, comments Firstbeat’s Director of Wellness Business Juho Tuppurainen.
”This allows experts in the field to measure and evaluate work tasks in relation to the employee’s functional capacity and health, so that occupational health and wellness actions can be targeted appropriately.”
Tool to Evaluate Employee’s Physical Workload to Improve Performance at Work
For years, Firstbeat has been helping people to find a sustainable balance between the different stressors in life and recovery, especially in fields of information and expert work. Now Firstbeat wants to expand the focus and provide additional data to address the special demands in physically heavy industries and work tasks.
“We can now conduct targeted measurements to evaluate if work is physically too heavy and find out what the key physical stressors (work tasks) are. This helps occupational healthcare professionals identify excessive workloads early enough. Seeing the employee’s physical workload in concrete numbers helps to recognize their challenges and then discuss them, together with the employee and the supervisor”, Juho Tuppurainen adds.
Firstbeat’s Research Director Tero Myllymäki points out that companies and employers can do a lot to boost employee fitness, for example by offering benefits, such as gym memberships, dedicating an hour of work time per week for exercise, or by monitoring the well-being of employees with different methods.
”In general, there is less recovery during the workday when the work is physically demanding. Good fitness helps to not only carry out physically heavy work but also to be able to recover afterwards, which has a significant positive effect on work performance”, says Myllymäki.
The physical workload evaluation tool was developed specifically for the benefit of Firstbeat’s occupational healthcare partners. Finnish companies Terveystalo and Mehiläinen are already utilizing the tool, for example, in the manufacturing, construction, and healthcare sectors.
”We want to support employers and healthcare professionals to prevent work-related disabilities and accidents, take better care of aging employees, and keep the entire workforce healthy and able to work as long as possible”, Juho Tuppurainen summarizes. We believe that this new tool will add significant value to the evaluation of physical workload and improve the understanding of how physically demanding specific jobs and work tasks actually are. This enables us to address employee overload problems early enough to make a difference.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Firstbeat’s Physical Workload tool for your organization, you can contact us here.
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