2 in 3 people need more help from their employer to manage their arthritis at work

With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to cause significant disruption in the workplace, never before has there been such a focus on the health and wellbeing of the UK’s workforce.

As HR leaders scramble to navigate through the current uncertainty whilst setting their organisations up for a post-COVID world, it’s crucial they don't lose sight of the more chronic factors affecting the wellbeing and, ultimately, performance of their most valuable asset.

One such problem is physical pain and specifically musculoskeletal conditions (MSK), including arthritis, which currently affects over 10 million people in the UK.

MSK conditions are a leading cause of short and long term workplace absences; and the reason behind over 7 million lost working days in 2018/19, according to the Health & Safety Executive. That’s a quarter of the total workdays lost that year.

Arthr recently conducted research amongst hundreds of people, in employment, living with arthritis. We found that whilst many people have spoken to their employer about their condition, a significant majority (64%) feel they still need more help to better manage their condition in the workplace.

The current crisis is unlikely to help matters. It’s clear that the national response to COVID is adversely impacting our mental health, fuelling a sense of isolation as well as taking away an individual's sense of control. For many, an inevitable consequence of working from home is that they are less willing to share, allowing them to revert to hiding their condition from their employer. This problem is further exacerbated where job security is also a risk.

There are of course a multitude of interventions available to employers in this area, including enhanced communication, regular check-ins, risk assessments, employee training, working hours to allow for regular breaks and incident monitoring and reporting.

But what more can employers who want to go beyond their basic obligation to employees do?

Firstly, it’s important to recognise that daily life with a long term condition such as arthritis can be draining. The relentless pain and inability to do the seemingly simple things eventually takes its toll physically, mentally and emotionally. This inevitably can filter into the workplace and, in some cases, affect performance.

Secondly, employers need to be accountable for the key role they play in the overall health and wellbeing of their employees, and small gestures can go a very long way. A great example of this is John Lewis, who went above and beyond for their staff and recently partnered with us to integrate the Arthr offering into their employee benefits programme.

Stacy McDougall, Development Manager at John Lewis, said:

“We recognise that any workforce, including our own, will have many people with arthritis who are potentially in need of help. At John Lewis & Partners, we look for partnerships that add genuine value to our team of current and retired partners. We hope to make everyday life a little bit easier, and more normal, for our partners living and working with arthritis by offering them Arthr’s new range of products.”

Arthr’s ambition is to design and curate product solutions through corporate wellbeing programmes, to improve the everyday lives of workers. If we can contribute just a little to the two thirds that want more support from their employers, or reduce the days lost to sickness, then we will have achieved a key part of our mission.

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