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TALKBACK RESEARCH 19

5) the reference of the AT teacher who implemented the training activity. Around 40 precedents met one or more of these criteria. Teachers and organisations were sent questionnaires to establish information about the organisation, the specific detail of the AT programme and its results. The researchers obtained first hand information from 23 precedents, including the NHS and BBC Bristol (see Table 1). Phase 3: Cases which fulfilled one or more of the following criteria were selected for in-depth analysis: 1) an evaluation of the implementation by the organisation 2) continuity: seen by the organisation as a necessary initiative within the organisation’s policy framework for a minimum of three years 3) first-hand collaboration and contribution of information from the organisation and the teacher undertaking the implementation 4) examples involving different sizes and types of organisations. This analysis was carried out by collecting information via interviews with the teachers and their collaborators within the organisations (by telephone, Skype or in person). Ten precedents passed this phase: l Victorinox l Unicible l Siemens AG l Treuhand GmbH l Ville de Lausanne l D.E.V.K. l Steuerberaterverband Schleswig-Holstein l Alliance Insurance Corporation l Chevron-Texaco l Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Phase 4: In the fourth phase, the researchers compared and analysed precedents to generate an evaluation, conclusions and future recommendations. Phase 5: The methods of this study were presented at the International Congress of Alexander Technique Teachers, August 2011, Lugano, Switzerland. A full report and an English summary were published online. [Ed. – This article was abridged and adapted from the English summary].

Evaluation

Workplace AT training is widespread across all sizes, types and sectors of organisation. Workers performed very different roles with

different ergonomic and psychosocial risk factors. They were mainly office workers with high levels of time pressure and computer usage, but included assembly production workers, workers with a high degree of physical work (e.g. woodcutters and refuse collectors), and hyper-specialised workers (e.g. surgeons and musicians) – all of whom had unique circumstances. The main organisational motivation was to deal with musculoskeletal risk, although there were also psychosocial motivations (e.g. stress management and job satisfaction) and business motivations (e.g. retaining talent and reducing errors). Most AT teachers reported that workers are increasingly aware of the need to improve their quality of life and work. The majority of workers developed a very positive attitude towards AT over time, despite initial resistance. Worker feedback was positive – they believed they had leant something useful which could be put into practice in the workplace and in their daily life. The precedents provided evidence that AT has physical, psychosocial and business level benefits: l Physical benefits included: reduced pain and disability; improved muscle tone; postural co-ordination and balance; and significantly less muscle activation during both generic and specialised movements. l Psychological benefits included stress management and improvements in: self-esteem; public speaking; creativity; concentration; teamworking; and the work environment. l Business benefits included: reduced work hours lost to illness; reduced accidents; reduced employment insurance; improved costs-profits relationship; and improved work performance. Precedents all used the AT base methodology: individual, verbal instruction and hands-on guidance by a qualified teacher. Sometimes this was complimented by group classes. AT proved positive in all cases, despite variations. The researchers believe this is because AT adapts to the individual. AT was being used as part of the Health & Safety programme in 74% of the organisations studied, and improved worker behaviours towards health and health policy. However, despite results, AT training was typically discontinued when the administrator changed jobs, highlighting the need to build commitment at higher levels. Active involvement of the organisation was linked to best overall results.

Conclusions from organisations

Victorinox: “The Alexander Technique is a major tool in workplace health and for preventing musculoskeletal disorders. Workers had problems with tendinitis and excessive muscular tension. The Alexander Technique seemed like the appropriate solution, given that it involves a process of learning and encourages people to take charge of their own health. Our experience is that if the employees LEARN, it works.” Unicible: “We would recommend this training to increase behavioural flexibility and assertiveness, to allow better dialogue and public speaking, to reduce muscular and emotional tension and to achieve more ergonomic conditions at work.” Siemens AG: “Its expansion to all the areas of production is highly recommended. There are good indications that this positive change will be maintained.” Treuhand GmbH: “It seems to be a good preventative measure against illness. It continues to be very well accepted, despite the workers having to pay half the costs.” D.E.V.K.: “Initially, the training was given in a group format. Then, on not giving the expected result, individual training was instigated, which gave a very satisfactory result.”

Discussion from the researchers

These precedents demonstrate that AT can be applied as a preventative training in organisations of any type, sector or size where ergonomic or psychosocial risks have been detected. AT has proven a simple and practical method that improves the co-ordination, freedom of movement, flexibility, support and balance through changing habits. Practising AT increases the worker’s perception and autonomy, bringing a control that is fluid and alive instead of rigid. It provides a means whereby the use and function of one part of the body improves, through looking after the overall use and function of the body. The application of AT does not imply a dependence on the technique, but rather a process of unlearning habits in order to function from a new perspective that delivers mental and physical flexibility when adapting to challenges.

TALKBACK l ISSUE 3 2014

TalkBack, Issue 3 | 2014 (BackCare)  

TalkBack is the quarterly magazine of BackCare, serving those with a personal or professional interest in back pain with news, views and edu...