A GLASGOW health researcher has been inspired by his mum’s suffering to launch a groundbreaking study into chronic pain in the workplace.

Now Ronald O’Kane, who is doing a PhD at Glasgow Caledonian University, is calling for city businesses to get involved.

Ronald’s mum Maureen struggled with chronic pain from osteoporosis for eight years before getting a knee replacement in 2022, and she says she was not given the support she needed at work.

Ronald, based in the university’s school of health and life sciences’ research centre for health (ReaCH), said: “From a personal point of view, I’ve seen chronic pain and the impact it can have on daily living first hand. My mum is 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 percent of the general population of all ages and their ability to stay in work.”

Glasgow Times: Ronald and his mum, Maureen, on his graduation dayRonald and his mum, Maureen, on his graduation day (Image: Glasgow Caledonian University)

Ronald, who is from the Southside, wants to give a voice to workers and their employers in Scotland's small and medium-sized businesses to help people with chronic pain remain in employment.

He hopes his research will identify the challenges and support 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,” he adds.

“The aim is to create adaptable solutions that can be tailored to specific employee and employer needs.”

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Six workplaces have already signed up for the study, including Green Fulfilment, an eco-conscious order fulfilment company in Glasgow.

Director Cain Fleming said: “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.”

Glasgow Times: Cain Fleming

He added: “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, who lives in Alexandria, said she was very proud of her son for giving those who are suffering from the condition a voice.

She added: “I would like to see more employers offering help and advice in the workplace on chronic pain and implementing policies and programmes to support staff before they are needed.

“I’d also like to see more 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 contact Ronald on ronald.okane@gcu.ac.uk