This won’t hurt a bit: 5 excellent reasons to have a chronic pain strategy in the workplace
By Tony Farley
It never hurts to take a moment, every now and then, to consider how fortunate we are that Australia has a National Pain Strategy for dealing with people who suffer chronic pain.
No other country has anything like it. The National Pain Strategy was developed five years ago and is a unique model of care for the management of chronic pain.
Did you know that medical experts have identified chronic pain as a disease in its own right? As we all know, chronic pain begins as a symptom of a condition. But over time, it actually becomes a chronic condition in its own right.
It’s the hidden, silent blight which few people talk about outside the immediate families of those who suffer.
Pain Australia has been successful in lobbying for and implementing 18 fully staffed clinics specialising in treating chronic pain in our capital cities. A further 14 such clinics recently opened in our regional areas.
But employers have a role to play too.
We provide ramps and other aids for the disabled, but how many of us think what we can do for employees who suffer chronic pain?
It’s time to broaden the discussion around chronic pain to include the workplace. Here are five very good reasons why.
1. It’s good for the body
There are many very simple strategies employers can put in place to aid those with chronic pain get through their workday. Basic things like stand-up desks for people with back pain, which is by far the most common form of chronic pain.
Allowing employees time for walks during the day so they’re not stuck sitting for long periods is another very simple policy. We should also be more flexible in our approach to when and where people can work.
Remember that many suffers experience chronic pain not as a result of workplace injury, but because of an accident, injury or condition contracted elsewhere, and that many have endured it over a long time.
2. It’s good for the soul
Nothing is more important the the dignity of workers in a workplace. When people know they are valued regardless of their physical capabilities, you create the sort of workplace that people feel proud to work at.
People spend half of their waking hours in the workplace. It should be a place where they feel empowered, not disabled.
3. It’s good for morale
Following on from the previous point, a happy workplace is a place every employer should strive to create. Through medical studies and mounting anecdotal evidence, we now understand better than ever the links between mental health issues and ongoing chronic pain.
The greatest gift an employer can give a chronic pain sufferer is to alleviate the stress they might feel if they think they’re bearing a problem they just can’t talk about. People hate to think they’re a burden to others. You can show them they’re not.
4. It’s good for the business bottom line
Let’s be a little mercenary here. A happy, healthy workplace is a productive workplace. By ensuring the needs of all your employees are taken into consideration, business will flourish and absenteeism will drop dramatically. That’s good news for everyone.
5. It’s good for the country
Chronic pain has been measured as Australia’s third costliest burden on the health system. It’s estimated to cost in excess of $11 billion. It is also said to cost a further $7 billion to the economy in terms of productivity losses.
By implementing a proactive policy to make life easier for people in the workplace who suffer chronic place, you’re dong your bit for them, for your business, and for the wider community.
It only hurts everyone by turning our back on this issue.