Job Physical Requirements (and Restrictions) Protect Everyone in Business and at Work


When my son Noah was born via an emergency c-section nearly 14 years ago, it was my first personal experience with major surgery and post-operative physical restrictions, after years of facilitating other employees’ physical restrictions and requirements at work. My restrictions, as outlined in the discharge note from my doctor, were as follows:

  • I couldn’t lift more than 10 pounds (Noah was 7 pounds and change) for 2 weeks;
  • I couldn’t walk up or down any stairs for 2 weeks;
  • I couldn’t drive for 4 weeks (a major bummer, since I love to drive my standard-shift car – however, Noah kept me busy);
  • I couldn’t physically return to work for 8 weeks (however, I was cleared to work remotely after 2 weeks of surgery recovery, so I could climb the stairs to my home office).

While it was frustrating to have physical limits imposed on my freedom to live and work, I had the staples, stitches and physical pain (underscored by the absence of the in-hospital morphine IV) to remind me of the logic of such physical limitations. And when the 2-week limitations were lifted after my post-birth check-up with my OB/GYN – believe me – it still hurt to walk up and down the stairs, so I took my time and took care. Frankly, I didn’t want any of my incisions to rupture – I wanted to regain my physical freedom completely.

My own personal experience with physical work restrictions underscored the importance of outlining physical requirements (and restrictions, if applicable) in business and at work, as I understood even more how these boundaries protect everyone – employees and employers alike.

Including but not limited to:

  • Outlining minimum physical requirements in job postings and descriptions, and reminding candidates of minimum physical requirements during the interview process. For example: if a teacher needs to schlep boxes, chairs and furniture that weigh a minimum of 25 pounds on a regular basis, it’s important to spell that out so job candidates know what to expect, as well as to ensure that they can lift a minimum of 25 pounds as a job requirement – which in turn also ensures their safety.
  • Physical requirements are not limited to lifting. In warehouse jobs, for example, workers often need to stretch, squat, and perform other physical tasks aside from just lifting.
  • Physical requirements are not limited to blue-collar jobs. Speaking as a blue-collar kid who has had a mostly white-collar career (with a {then} pink-collar stint as a nurse’s aide to support myself through college), I have schlepped, shoved and lifted up to 200 pounds in every job over the course of my career, regardless of leadership level. Particularly when I was a nurse’s aide, lifting patients that weighed up to 200 pounds – I had great arm muscles back then. However, I’m lucky to lift 30 pounds safely today.
  • For example: when you’ve had surgery like I did, ask for and expect a note from your doctor outlining any physical and/or work restrictions. It’s important for your employer to receive a copy of this note, so they can best protect you (and other employees) by ensuring that they (the employer) and you both observe the doctor’s work restriction boundaries (if any) when you are cleared by your doctor to return to work.

If I tried to lift 200 pounds during my post-operative recovery period, I not only would have ruptured my stitches, but I also might have damaged myself internally in my weakened physical state. Understanding and strictly observing my physical restrictions supported my healing process, and helped me to return to the work and the job I loved.

How will you protect yourself and your team this week by setting appropriate physical job requirement boundaries, in business and at work?

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