Four Ways Leadership Can Influence Employee Engagement in a Workplace Stretching Program

June 20, 2018 | Danielle Browne

Having a workplace stretching program, or Stretch and Flex, not only helps your organization mitigate the short and long-term costs of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s), it also shows your employees you care about their health and well being.

However, a workplace stretching program is not something you “set and forget”. Like all safety initiatives, it’s important leadership is firmly behind the program and understands the types of support needed in order for the program to be successful in the long run.

Provide Support to Managers and Supervisors

Managers and supervisors are the key to ensuring your workforce understands and participates in your workplace stretching program. While employees might not see and hear from company leaders on a daily basis, they most likely interact with their managers and supervisors daily. Managers and supervisors should hold employees accountable to participating in the warm-up. As a leader, it’s important you do the same for your managers and supervisors.

Here are two ways you can provide support:

  • Coach them on your program expectations. How are they presenting the program? Do they participate or are they distracted during the stretches? If your only directive was to do stretches every shift, you’ll need to provide a more specific framework for them to be successful.
  • Make sure they understand why the program is important and what the larger organizational goals are. If they don’t, see it as an opportunity to educate. If you’re using a third party to administer your stretching program, they’ll be able to provide training resources to your team.

Actively Participate

Leaders must model the behaviors they expect in their employees. As a leader, if you are not actively participating in your workplace stretching program you need to start...now. Employees notice when leaders don’t participate in any safety initiative, especially workplace stretching. Participating shows you practice what you preach and care about their safety and wellbeing.

Here are two ways to increase you and your leadership team’s participation in your workplace stretching program:

  • If you have daily leadership meetings, start them off with stretching. Have a different manager lead the group and choose music daily or weekly.
  • Occasionally drop in to shift start meetings to perform stretches with employees. Make sure other plant leaders are doing the same. Don’t tell supervisors before dropping by.

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Provide Recognition Early and Often

Who doesn’t want to be recognized by their superiors for doing a job well done? Regularly encourage your employees by acknowledging high engagement during a workplace stretching session. It not only shows employees you care, but also that you’re paying attention to and invested in the program.

Here are two ways to provide recognition to employees:

  • Take an employee aside when you witness them highly engaged in or leading the stretches and tell them what a great job they’re doing.
  • Highlight employees/supervisors/managers who embody program leadership in all-company/plant meetings.

Communicate About the Program

When your workplace stretching program was first implemented, you probably had a robust communication strategy. Your employees were aware of the program, why it was implemented and what their role was. Now it’s six months to a year later. You’ve had a fair amount of turnover and the employees who were there for the program rollout have been through several other program announcements and have long forgotten why they do daily stretches.

Here are three ways to refresh program communications:

  • Regularly communicate the “why” behind the program. This can be done through company newsletters, safety bulletins, and daily shift start meetings.
  • Tell success stories. Use personal accounts of how the stretching has positively impacted certain employees (with their permission, of course).  
  • Educate new hires by including time in orientation to discuss the company’s expectations of employee participation in the program.

Many of these ideas can be implemented immediately, while some will take time and effort. Whatever you choose to do first, know how much your participation in your company’s workplace stretching program will mean to your employees.

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