An Evidence-Based Program Designed for Sedentary Workplaces Aiming to Improve Staff Performance, Energy and Resilience [Interview][Transcript]

Guest: Anna-Louise Bouvier
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Anna-Louise is the Executive Director and Creator of Happy Body At Work. The program has rolled out to over 15,000 people last year alone in organisations as diverse as Optus, the ASX, Minter Ellison, CatholicCare, the University of Sydney, UTS and the CSIRO. She is also the creator and Exec Director of Physiocise, which over the past 20 years has taught over 66,000 classes to people with bad backs and wobbly bodies. She also consults to the Waratahs, Brumbies and Wallabies on overuse injuries.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, Anna-Louise Bouvier presents valuable insights on how to get better productivity, performance and increased resilience in the workplace. With the help of their Happy Body At Work program which is based on a behavioural change model, get positive results such as increased activity levels, reduced sedentary time, improved sleep patterns, greater energy, fewer aches and pains and increased awareness of stress signals.


Health Professional Radio – Happy Body at Work

Wayne Bucklar:   You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. Today my guest is Anna-Louise Bouvier. Anna-Louise joins us from Physiocise and I’m guessing just from the name that that’s about physiotherapy, so welcome to HPR Anna-Louise. Do tell us about Physiocise.

Anna-Louise Bouvier:   Thank you very much Wayne. It’s lovely to be here and I’d be delighted to talk to you about Physiocise is basically evolved from my career as a physiotherapist working largely with people with chronic back pain and neck pain. And as a physiotherapist I’m sure most likely as any health professional good practitioner would probably tell you, it’s incredibly hard to get people to continue to do exercises or continue to do preventive treatment once the acute phase has gone away. So in fact there’s a new research that just found that people are unlikely do the rehab prescribed to them even if they’ve have had a major heart attack, so it’s kind of can you imagine with back pain people just don’t do their exercises. And so consequently if you keep sitting the way you’ve always sat and don’t exercise and not your core’s not very good and you’ve got lots of stress going on and you sit too much – that pain’s gonna come back. So about 20 years ago I started a business called “Physiocise” where people would come to us and they would learn to change their bodies and their brains. And over a series of classes, we would gradually retrain them and get rid of their pain long term. So it’s that’s sort of how it evolved.

W:   I can certainly understand that compliance issue because I’m a villain for not even taking pills after the symptoms go away, little I’m doing anything.

A:   I know. And look, those studies that have looked at patients likely would of doing rehab, looked at things right down to when the people would actually take their medication after heart surgery and up to 76% of people did not take their medication as prescribed, which just likely because they’re busy. But it’s the way a lot of us go, the minute that your kid emergency goes away, we forget and you know largely we end up back where we started.

W:   It is interesting, I do a lot of interviews as you can imagine in the health profession and I had someone say to me that “Australians prefer ambulances to traffic lights.” They would rather deal with the consequences of the accident than the prevention of it.

A:   Yeah, look I guess I’ve spent the last really 20 years of my career working in the prevention phase and it’s a very, very interesting to see what you need to do to actually bring people on that journey, on that prevention journey. And one of the things that I’ve learned is actually my work really now in media, which is where I spend a lot of my time now and realizing that as health professionals we need to sell the benefits of what we’re doing and why people would come on this journey with us. And I guess really that’s where my work with “Happy Body” which is the kind of the corporate evolution of Physiocise has really been about what are the things that really matter to people that would make them think “Well, yeah okay I’m gonna buy into this” and that’s something that I think often as in the medical profession we’re very focused on our goals and our needs and what we think the patient needs and we often forget that in fact we’ve got to do this sales pitch to bring people on board.

W:   You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. I’m in conversation with Anna-Louise Bouvier, the executive director and creator of Physiocise and an author as well. We’ll talk about the book in a minute but coming back to Physiocise Anna-Louise, what geographical footprint do you service? Is this, now you’re based in Sydney?

A:   We are based in Sydney and we are largely, we’ve got two studios in Sydney and we have about a 160 class per week running through those two studios so that’s 1,600 people coming in Sydney but over a years I’ve been asked many many times whether we would franchise, whether we’ll open up in different town, in a different countries and all those kind of places. And I guess we decided that because of the way that we work, the intensity of the training that we have for our staff, it largely stayed as a Sydney based footprint. But responding to those inquiries, I was approached by the ABC which are public broadcaster here in Australia and they also do a lot of education and entertainment and said would you do a book about the principles involved in the program and that evolved in for book called “The Feel Good Body” which is available through Amazon and online bookstores. And that really was the basic principles that we talk about in the program, it looks at postures and habits and the way you sit, the way you stand, the way you move, and that really was the next evolution of spreading this message around back pain into a broader demographic.

W:   Now you’ve extended into the workplace as well.

A:   We have. Well that was kind of the next evolution was, well people these days probably aren’t reading book as much and we realized that this is enormous amount of research now looking at the impact of sedentary lifestyle and how much we’re sitting and the impact not only on our backs and necks but now the research is unequivocal in terms of links to obesity, diabetes, to 28% of cancers and also to low mood and depression. So this is sort of a twofold … I guess – one is from the employees’ point of view because now we’re looking at sedentary workplaces and saying “You know what, these are not very good places to work.” But also just in terms of the energy and the take level and stress level of so many people, so we just sort of packaged up these contents and again ABC Commercial, we went on a joint venture and we’re now rolling out this hugely successful program called “The Happy Body At Work, ” and what we do is over eight weeks, we go into a multi-platform educational program which can be delivered across an entire organization, but also can be delivered globally and in fact we’re doing global roll outs at the moment for some of the big law firms who needless to say have a lot of very tired and stressed lawyers and theses messages around energy and resilience and performance but delivered in a very amusing animations and very sort of the stick, with lots of sticky messages has really resonated for a lot of big organization.

W:   Of course most of our audience are clinicians and with dripping sarcasm I say clinicians never have back problems.

A:   Of course, of course (laughing)

W:   Nurses and doctors are always so wearing their costumes, so good.

A:   Absolutely. And I think probably that’s where a lot of my work comes from. It’s a real reality check about I know even with the best of knowledge, I know myself, my colleagues, my friends, really it’s a really hard to change things and I think that’s where we’re starting to understand more and more that in fact if we want to plastic body, if we want a change bodies, we need to change habit, if we need to change habits, we need to change brains. And it’s that neuroplasticity of can we actually get in and look at a lifetime of that habit and make simple changes that allow people to actually change their bodies. And that’s really I think one of the most exciting parts of physiotherapy practice over the last certainly 10 years. It’s being the impact of all the neuroplasticity research and also around the behavioral motivation research because really probably that’s where I spend much of my time. And it’s interesting now that probably I get a lot of my best ideas in terms of behavioral change from the advertising world because you kind of look at it and you go Okay, well how do we get people to take on board very simple, short messages and go “Yeah I want, I’ll buy into that.” And they’re very clever at the way that they make us do stuff so I decided to go with the enemy and work out how to make people to stuff.

W:   Well it’s just a tool. It’s only the enemy if it’s used against you or it’s your friend if it’s used for your benefit.

A:   (laughing) That’s right.

W:   Anna-Louise, my favorite question in every interview is about misconceptions. What’s the biggest misconception in your work life that drives you nuts and keeps you awake at night?

A:   It’s a very good question. One of the biggest ones is that all these messages are boring, like it’s amazing how I’ve had to stop using words like posture and exercise and prevention and pain, and all those words that I think when people have got these problems, and so many people do, because I see that every dinner party, every party that I go to and people go “Oh God, look I’ve got back pain or neck pain or whatever.” And what drives me nuts is that in fact it such a big problem and yet in the particularly in the corporate world, there is so much focus on organizational change and ways of looking at operational changes that doesn’t consider the human condition. And it’s very interesting we’ve just dong a big role out with one of the major universities here on Australia and the Dean of the school of Business turned around and said to me, “You know we are teaching MBA courses.” And he said “They come out so beautifully qualified to run a business and we don’t talk about people.” So if you’ve got a tired person who’s working two jobs, who isn’t sleeping, whose stresses to the eyeballs then you can forget about productivity, and you can forget about engagement and you can forget about all those things. And in fact probably one of the greatest joys of what we do is when we go in and we start these conversations where people go “Wow, we’re all of this, we’re all feeling a bit like this.” And how can we change those things. So what drives me nut that people don’t realize how much they need to think about themselves and what gives me the greatest pleasure is when that changes.

W:   Well we might help a little bit today, having had a chat. I’m sure we’ll have some of our nurses and doctors listening thinking “Oh they might be talking me.” But we’ll see.

A:   That’s right, what’s amazing actually now were starting to go into hospital as well because its exactly the same thing, I think in the caring professions we spend so much time looking after our patients that it’s the last person we think about is ourselves. And it’s exactly the same issues in burn out, fatigue and as much as you love your job, it’s hard when you are utterly, utterly exhausted and that’s great to now start this confession, saying It’s okay start looking after yourself a bit and what can you do to do that?

W:   Now Anna-Louise for listeners who want to get hold of you, how do they get in touch?

A:    If they just go to and go Contact Us page, that would be the easiest way to get hold of me, or if they want to go to the Physiocise page P H Y S I O C I S E and they can find all about we do with chronic back pain and happy bodies.

W:   And if you’ve missed our interview or you just tuned in, I’ve been chatting with Anna-Louise Bouvier of Physiocise. And we have a transcript of our conversation on our website. We also have an archive of the audio on YouTube and also on SoundCloud. So if you’ve just caught the end of us, do have a listen and you can catch up with Anna-Louise and This is Wayne Bucklar, you’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio.