A recent study found more employees drag themselves through their workday in chronic pain than anyone guessed. A closer look at the issue shows the problem is expensive on many fronts, and that the least painful – and most cost effective – solution is likely to be an ergonomics program.
The study was designed to examine the frequency and impact of pain in the workforce, and it showed the scale of the problem. When researchers from the Harris Allen Group in Massachusetts surveyed more than 1,000 employees of a major United States business services company, they found 29 percent of workers reported ongoing problems with pain. Published in July in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the study also revealed that employees with pain scored more than 45 percent lower on an overall rating of physical health, compared to those without pain, and were five times more likely to report health-related limitations in job performance. The more severe the pain, the greater its effect on productivity. Pain was also linked to a 23 percent reduction in their mental health score.
The survey identified neck pain, back pain, arthritis, allergies and depression as the top five chronic health problems.
On a measure combining absenteeism and “presenteeism” – defined as health problems that are not severe enough to cause absence but still affect work performance – employees with pain lost an average of three and two-thirds work days per month.
Other studies round out the picture of the adverse impact on business. In March 2005, Ergonomics Today