HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

93% of Aussies experience pain everyday: How can employers help reduce this?

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
93 Of Aussie S Experience Pain Everyday How Can Employers Help Reduce This

Research has revealed that, shockingly, 93 per cent of Australians of all ages experience everyday pain. This affects the way many work, making addressing this issue in the workplace all the more important.

Haleon’s Global Pain Index revealed that 53 per cent of these people suffering pain are employed. Another 53 per cent said this pain affects their work performance, 42 per cent said it causes anxiety, and 65 per cent said it impacts their ability to enjoy life.

Despite these issues, 38 per cent noted that their employer does not take their pain seriously. This is causing many to stay silent, as just 36 per cent shared their pain with co-workers, 24 per cent shared with their manager, and 40 per cent saw discussing their issues as taboo.


The consequences of keeping these problems bottled up can be severe for organisations and individuals, according to Toby Newton-John, professor of clinical psychology and head of school in the Graduate School of Health at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

“As we know, discussing pain is still perceived as a taboo topic; this may be due to having experienced discrimination in the workplace in the past. We all need to help shift our approach to pain to ensure everyone’s pain is acknowledged, understood and treated with compassion,” he explained.

“If we don’t have a two-way conversation in the workplace, an employee will suffer in silence and potentially leave rather than draw attention to their challenges. Worse still, if left unaddressed by an employer, the employee will feel unsupported and that their pain has not been taken seriously, which could have broader reaching ramifications.”

So, what can employers do to help alleviate these far-reaching issues? As with many themes in business, communication is key.

“It is important to understand that pain levels vary, and so do people’s response to pain. If an employee is struggling with pain, then employers should use it as an opportunity to learn and accommodate staff needs,” commented Professor Newton-John.

“Employees living with pain have good days and bad days, as we all do. If an employee has mentioned that they are experiencing pain, don’t assume they are suddenly better, or suddenly relapsed, if they are moving differently or their mood is different to yesterday. ‘How are you today?’ is much better than ‘Are you feeling better/worse today?’”

He continued: “Enable a two-way conversation, ask questions to understand an employee’s challenges better and adapt the work environment to create a solution that will benefit the whole team.”

With so many Aussies experiencing these issues, it’s important that people understand what to do when they arise. Again, communication is important, not just for the employer but also for the individual.

Professor Newton-John said: “Have a conversation. Although it may feel intimidating, especially if you are struggling with getting work done, having a conversation with your employer can help them to better support you.”

“An employee can offer solutions to have a constructive discussion and which your employer can then consider. It’s about working together. When discussing the tasks that you are having difficulty completing, it is a good idea to offer suggestions as to what you might do instead – don’t just leave it with the negative; make sure you highlight what you are able to do despite your pain. Be careful of the ‘boom and bust’ cycle though; pacing your activities is a key aspect of managing pain well in the longer term.”

Elena Pintado, head of pain at Haleon, concluded: “The Haleon Pain Index findings are significant to Australia’s healthcare landscape. The data shines a light on the stark reality that an overwhelming number of Australians are suffering in silence when it comes to pain. The data speaks to the urgent need for a societal shift in our approach to pain, transcending age and generation. Opening the lines of communication to ensure everyone’s pain is acknowledged, understood, and treated with compassion should be front and centre.”

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.