Someone said that 80 percent of life is showing up – but when you’re in pain, both your energy and your job performance are affected, according to research I’ve done with Noah Eisenkraft and Chaitali Kapadia.
Workers in pain tend to focus their energy on regulating their pain, leading them to:
- Feel as if they are “depleted”
- Withdraw and narrow their attention to focus only on essential tasks
- Be less helpful to co-workers or make fewer constructive suggestions at work
The relatively good news is that:
- On days when pain was low, the same workers were proactive and helpful.
- People can learn to cope. Workers who experienced chronic pain for longer improved their performance over time, increasing their capacity for balancing daily job demands with pain.
Employees’ physical wellbeing has implications for organizations far beyond absenteeism and attrition.
Business leaders who want the best performance from their employees should:
- Develop and implement effective treatments and symptom management strategies for chronic health conditions
- Change punitive sick-leave policies which could exacerbate this problem by creating conditions in which people feel obligated to work regardless of how poorly they feel
- Help employees replenish their energy on days when they are feeling sick, such as taking longer break