Addressing Chronic Pain in the Workplace: 7 Pointers for Employers
Chronic pain isn’t always visible. Many people who experience chronic pain have had it for years and learned to deal with it — but that doesn’t mean they hurt any less.
As an employer, you should strive to make the workplace comfortable for your employees so they work well despite their symptoms. If you have an employer over you, consider passing these ideas on to see if they can implement them.
1. Give Flexible Work and WFH Opportunities
Not everyone can complete eight hours of work at a desk without stopping. Most people need to take breaks and tear their eyes away from a screen or step away from dealing with people for a moment. People with chronic pain might manage life’s daily stressors better with a more flexible schedule or work-from-home opportunities.
Nearly half of the workforce works from home now, so you can consider making a few days of the week remote. Doing so will allow those who feel chronic pain to treat their symptoms from the comfort of their home rather than trying to put on a good face for the people at work. Their quality of work should be equal to what it is in the office.
2. Meet Accommodations
People with chronic pain may have certain accommodations that you need to meet. Even if it isn’t required of you as an employer, you can show your employees how much you care by asking for any requests or requirements that would make the job easier or doable for them.
Some people may have to navigate the office with a cane or a wheelchair, while others may prefer standing desks to lessen their risks of chronic disease or keep their legs from going numb. Whatever the accommodation may be, do all you can to put your employees first. If you value them, they will value you.
3. Give Excellent Insurance Options
When purchasing health and other insurance options for your employees to choose from, think about how much they will benefit from it. You want to choose an insurance plan that will allow all of your employees to take care of any issues they may have.
For example, physical therapy can help several chronic pain conditions by mitigating the severity of the symptoms by using gentle movement and massage to ease the pain. Allowing them to choose an insurance plan that encompasses all of their worries can take the stress off of their monthly budget and help them receive the care they need.
4. Build in Exercise
You don’t have to turn your office into a gym, but creating time for some gentle movement can help those with chronic pain stretch and relax while getting out of their restrictive sitting or standing position. Light exercise can help people relieve some of the stress from their workday, but it can also serve as a break from staring at screens or dealing with aggressive customers.
One of the best ways to build strength and stretch your body fully is to try new yoga poses. Remind your team to bring workout clothes on the days you plan on participating in yoga. Also, make sure it’s optional. That way, they can enjoy the break from the workday without straining themselves if they don’t think it’s possible. Choose to use poses that promote strength and challenge the body without pushing it too hard, such as the Boat pose.
5. Make the Environment Relaxing
Get input from all of your employees on what can make your workplace more relaxing. If you work in a fast-paced environment, having a space for your employees to relax without any disruptions or stressful situations is a necessity.
You may choose to change the overhead lights so they aren’t as bright and glaring, or you could offer your employees more breaks and flexible lunchtimes. Promote an environment where you value your employees’ work and time, and they’ll start to see the workplace as an enjoyable place to be rather than a pain to commute to every day.
6. Educate Others
Some of your employees may not experience chronic pain, and they could find it difficult to put themselves in the shoes of their other coworkers. Consider having an educational day where you or a trusted professional hosts a panel on chronic pain and why being kind to others, regardless of their health situation, matters.
Educational programs can help you retain employees and help those employees feel understood and valued. They’re a worthwhile investment for any employer who wants their employees to know that they take their concerns seriously.
7. Practice Empathy and Kindness
While you may not ever have to experience chronic pain, you can still strive to understand the viewpoints of those who live with it every day. If your employees with chronic pain are comfortable with it, sit down with them and ask them about their experience. Learn from them. What may seem like a simple everyday task to you could cause them immense pain and take a lot of mental fortitude to complete.
Be understanding when their moods change. If you were in pain constantly, you might be more irritable, too. People who are used to working with chronic pain may have learned to “mask” their symptoms and appear pain-free at work, but that doesn’t mean they’re in any less pain. Offer them the same kindness you give to everyone, and they’ll be grateful that you supported them through every moment of the day.
Always Assume Someone Needs Your Compassion
Taking care of others might not come naturally to everyone, but your employees deserve your kindness as an employer. Nearly 20% of working adults deal with chronic pain — meaning, someone you know probably has chronic pain but keeps it under wraps.
You shouldn’t assume that someone has a disability, but if you consider that everyone is fighting their own battles that you know nothing about, it might help you remember to stay kind to everyone you talk to. Living a compassionate life is essential — and you can always start with your employees.
Meet The Blogger
Martin Banks grew up outside of Chicago and covers all things small-business related, as well as the world’s best hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks
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