A health researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University was inspired to launch a study into tackling the problem of chronic pain in the workplace after witnessing his mum’s suffering for years.

Ronald O’Kane said his support worker mum Maureen struggled with chronic pain from osteoporosis for eight years before getting a knee replacement in 2022 and she wasn’t given the support she needed at work.

Ronald, a PhD researcher in the School of Health and Life Sciences’ Research Centre for Health (ReaCH), said: “From a personal point of view, I’ve seen chronic pain first-hand with my mum and the impact it can have on daily living. She was my inspiration and motivation to do something about it.

“It’s a big issue across the country. There’s a perception that it’s an older person’s disease but it affects 43% of the general population of all ages and their ability to stay in work.”

Ronald wants to give a voice to workers and their employers at Scotland’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help support people with chronic pain remain in employment.

He wants to speak to them to identify the challenges and support that is needed to help reduce sickness absence and improve productivity at work.

“Getting both perspectives on tackling the issue of pain at work will really open our eyes to what is needed and what is missing. The aim is to create adaptable solutions that can be tailored to specific employee and employer needs,” added Ronald.

Ronald has already got six workplaces signed up for the study, including Green Fulfilment, a leading eco-conscious order fulfilment company in Glasgow, but is on the lookout for more.

Green Fulfilment Director Cain Fleming explained why he got involved in the research: “Green Fulfilment is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive work environment for all our employees.

“As a company, we recognise the importance of addressing chronic health conditions and their impact on our workforce. Participating in this research study has provided us with valuable insights into the prevalence and challenges faced by our employees living with chronic health conditions.

“By understanding the specific needs of our employees, we can develop targeted interventions and support systems that effectively address these challenges. We are committed to fostering a culture of wellbeing and ensuring that Green Fulfilment is a place where everyone feels empowered to manage their health and thrive in their careers.”

Ronald’s mum Maureen said she was very proud of her son for launching this study to understand and evaluate chronic pain in the workplace and give those who are suffering from the condition a voice.

Maureen added: “I would like to see more employers offering help and advice in the workplace on chronic pain and to implement policies and programmes to support them before they are needed, as well as policies regarding time off, leave, telework, and other considerations to be put in place, and assistance programmes or other wellbeing programmes should be established. They also need to improve the physical work environment, and offer flexibility and encourage regular breaks, spread awareness and provide education on chronic pain.”

If you are interested in taking part in this study please contact the researcher Ronald O’Kane directly ronald.okane@gcu.ac.uk.

Photos show Ronald and his mum Maureen, and Cain Fleming, Director of Green Fulfilment.