"Generally speaking, chronic pain and other physical and mental disorders have been categorized as 'silent disorders' in the workplace simply because most employees are afraid of the consequences if employers find out," concluded Wayne Hochwarter, an associate professor of management in Florida State University's College of Business in Tallahassee, Florida.

Hochwarter's research indicates that chronic pain at work has a significant effect on both the worker and the organization. Higher levels of chronic pain are associated with, for example, more conflict on the job, less-effective communication, less enthusiasm for the job, more job tension or higher levels of depressed mood.

Hochwarter also was interested in gauging the bottom-line consequences of chronic pain for sufferers. "For those experiencing even moderate levels of chronic pain, the financial consequences are staggering," he said.

In one study, Hochwarter asked more than 2,000 employees to report the number of hours per week that pain caused them to be ineffective. "The results indicate that chronic pain accounts for over five hours per week of lost productivity," he found. "When projected over the course of the year, we are talking about more than $5,000 per employee."

According to Hochwarter, this result does not take into consideration indirect costs, which can double or triple the amount.

"An inability to be productive also affects customer retention and increases bottlenecks caused by not keeping up with others, not to mention the costs associated with absenteeism, tardiness and ongoing medical treatment," he said.

Hochwarter suggested that a proactive approach by employers may help minimize some of these undesirable effects.

MEDICA.de; Source: Florida State University