Entrepreneur and self-employed, promote your musculoskeletal health

Musculoskeletal (MSK) health is an important part of your work ability. Your work ability, in turn, is a vital condition and a resource for your company. So, take as good care of yourself as you do of your business. You will succeed by identifying harmful workloads, accommodating your work according to your needs and allowing yourself to recover sufficiently.

MSK health is part of your work ability

Work ability means that you succeed in your work according to your expectations and those of your customers. This requires that your resources (for instance, functional capacity, competence, motivation) are in balance with the demands of your work. Your physical work ability and functional capacity consist of your characteristics and capabilities to cope with the physical demands of daily life at work and during free time. Promoting and supporting MSK health is thus an important part of your work ability.

Identify harmful workloads

It may be easier for you to identify harmful workloads if you get external help and support for the assessment. If you have acquired occupational health services for yourself, the occupational health professionals will carry out a workplace survey for you, which also includes an assessment of the level of physical workload involved. That means investigating the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular strain caused by the work. They also assess what the strain means for your work ability and health.

On the occupational health team, it is especially the occupational health physiotherapist’s duty to assess physical workload and improve ergonomics. Be active; schedule a workplace survey with the occupational health services and tell them about your work.

This is particularly important if your work involves recurrent or prolonged

  • manual handling of loads 
  • static muscle work, for example working with elevated arms 
  • repetitive work movements or sustained postures 
  • work phases that require the use of strength 
  • vibration affecting the whole body or the hands and arms 
  • psychosocial workload factors, such as time pressure, financial challenges or unreasonable customer demands and the feeling of loneliness a work.

Make use of the recommendations given by the occupational health services. That allows you to reduce the physical workload factors and make your work smoother, healthier and safer. You can plan and implement the necessary measures yourself or together with the occupational health physiotherapist. If you are facing a more complex issue, you can also seek help from an ergonomics specialist.

Develop your work and working conditions using ergonomics and collaborating with professionals and build a way of working that promotes your musculoskeletal (MSK) health. It is advisable for you to act already before any problems appear.

    1. Schedule a workplace survey with the occupational health services and actively participate in the assessment of the physical and psychological workload factors of your work. Find out what the harmful workload factors of your work are and how you can manage them.

    2. Make sure that the occupational health services provides you enough information about the physical workload factors and ways of working that support your work ability.

    3. Take the workload factors and symptoms seriously also when you manage to perform your work despite them.

    4. Make use of ergonomics. Design your work and your work environment to match your physical characteristics. It is also a good idea for you to acquire ergonomic tools.

    5. Make sure that you recover properly.

    6. Build a relevant network of colleagues and entrepreneurs to support you.

    7. If you develop musculoskeletal symptoms, make an appointment with an occupational health physiotherapist or a physician at the early stages of the symptoms.

    8. If the symptoms are related to your work, discuss the issue with an occupational health professional, preferably an occupational health physiotherapist. Together, make use of work accommodation measures. You can get support from ergonomics solutions related to, for example, ways of working, tools and flexible working time.

    9. As an entrepreneur or self-employed, you may also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation if your work ability has weakened or is at risk.

Pace your work, take breaks, and recover

Make sure that you recover properly from your work. Recovery consists of recovery during the workday and recovery from work. Consider what suits you and your job.

Recovery during the workday means that you get enough energy from food and that you drink enough during the workday. It includes taking breaks and using the breaks to recover. Make sure that you take regular breaks and use them wisely. You should do something restorative during your breaks. For example, if you work in a standing position, you can walk during your breaks to get the blood circulating in your lower limbs and sit to rest your legs and feet. If you work with your hands, it is a good idea to do some restorative hand stretches and rest your hands. Fun exercise during breaks can be part of your recovery at work. If you can schedule outdoor activities or some other restorative activity in the middle of the day, it can bring extra energy. Recovery at work also means pacing your work in a smart way so that the workload is distributed more evenly. You can, for example, use your hands alternately to perform the work movements. You can also alternate work phases that require sitting and standing or perform the work phases that require more strength in the morning and lighter ones in the afternoon when your muscles are tired.

Recovery from work means how you recover between your work shifts. Although it is often difficult for self-employed persons or entrepreneurs to stick to the working hours, make sure that you have at least 11 hours to recover between shifts. Recovery consists of getting enough sleep, exercise, relaxation, and other free-time activities that are important to you, as well as social interaction. Take care of those close to you and let them take care of you.

No need to do everything on your own

While you are responsible for the operations and success of your business, you do not need to do everything on your own. Carefully evaluate what areas are your responsibility and where it would be beneficial to get external help.

You have probably acquired external help for managing your company’s financial matters. You should take the same approach to taking care of your coping, competence, work ability and MSK health. Your occupational health services will help you. You are also entitled to longer-term rehabilitation. You can find more information on Kela’s website (kela.fi).

You can look after your well-being and competence by, for example, participating in the activities of local entrepreneur networks or mentoring programmes.