When employees at Appvion Inc. in Appleton, Wis., suffer from shoulder injuries, low back pain or other musculoskeletal problems, they don’t have to leave the office to be seen by a physical therapist.

PT_news-01As part of its ongoing commitment to employee wellness, Appvion, a company that produces thermal, carbonless, security, colored bond, inkjet and digital specialty papers and Encapsys products, has brought healthcare in-house.

Amy Vissers, human resources manager for Appvion, said the company recently added physical therapy to the services offered at its onsite clinic.

“Some of the top health issues among our employees are upper back, elbow, shoulder and neck pain, as well as overuse injuries,” Vissers said. “Many healthcare appointments are only offered during work hours, and as a result, we saw how difficult it was for our employees to access the care they needed.”

By contracting with two PTs, Appvion decided to bring care directly to its employees. Every Tuesday and Thursday, employees can receive physical therapy for their ailments at a reduced cost and on the clock. Vissers said since the program was implemented in June 2014, collectively employees who participated saved nearly $10,000 and 200 hours away from work.

JP Larson PT, OCS, works with an Appvion employee in the on-site clinic.

JP Larson PT, OCS, works with an Appvion employee in the onsite clinic. (Photo courtesy Appvion Inc.)

“The PT program has been so successful that we hope to expand it to include more days and hours,” she said.

While the PTs who were hired didn’t have a corporate background, Vissers said they were both considered good candidates because of their abilities to think outside of the box, and to align themselves with Appvion’s commitment to create a healthier workforce.

“We have an onsite manufacturing plant at Appvion, where a lot of our employees are male and wouldn’t make appointments to see a doctor until they were in a lot of pain,” Vissers said. “We want to help them to avoid long-term health problems by being proactive about their health, and realizing that pain isn’t an inevitable part of aging.”

Appvion also started a stretching program with the local YMCA. Each employee was taught a series of stretches, and measurements were taken to note how far each employee could sit and reach, and whether they could touch their toes, for example.

“Daily stretching has become a part of our corporate culture, with each department holding a stretching break at a designated time each day,” Vissers said. “Our goal is to prevent injuries on the manufacturing floor and to reduce aches and pains from sitting too long.”

While some of the manufacturing plant workers were unsure whether they actually could benefit from stretching, Vissers said they were taught their roles at the company were as “industrial athletes” because of the lifting and physical labor required. Six months later, when their reach and other outcomes were measured again, employees saw the benefits of stretching. In the maintenance department pilot of 90 employees, only one strain was reported in a 10-month period, compared with 21 strains and sprains in the period before the pilot began.

“Our employees reported they were taking less OTC pain meds, their mobility was better and they had more energy at the end of the day,” Vissers said. “We also encourage employees to take a 3-minute break for every 60 minutes that they work, and to use the break to take a walk, stretch and to get moving.”