There are many reasons you might deal with chronic pain or a chronic illness. With chronic pain, it may be linked to an accident. For example, car accidents can lead to disc-related back injuries that may cause pain for years. There is also chronic pain that can stem from chronic illness itself.

When you deal with chronic pain and chronic illness, whether the two are related or not, it can impact your ability to be productive at work.

The yearly costs of pain related to reduced workplace productivity are in the hundreds of billions.

There are certain areas of the body where the pain is more likely to affect productivity. For example, pain in the back, neck, and abdomen may be most likely to affect productivity. Around one-third of people with chronic pain also deal with depression as a result, which has an even greater effect on productivity.

The following are some of the ways you can stay productive, even if you’re facing the challenge of chronic pain or illness.

Be Open with Your Boss

Often people who have chronic pain or chronic illness don’t want to talk to people about because they feel embarrassed.

It’s important that if you feel comfortable doing so, you speak with your boss.

Explain to your boss what you’re dealing with and the steps that could help you be most productive.

For example, maybe telecommuting on certain days is an option for you.

Identify Your Triggers

When you have chronic pain, there are often things that are triggers. For example, maybe sitting for long periods of time exacerbates back pain or migraines.

Work on identifying your triggers so that you can then proactively deal with them before they lead to bigger problems.

Maybe your pain levels start to go up at certain times of day more than others. If this is the case, you could work around getting the most of your work done before those times and then managing your easier tasks when your pain is flaring.

Set Up Your Workspace So That It’s Ergonomic

Everyone needs an ergonomic workspace, whether they deal with chronic pain or not.

An ergonomic workspace can reduce pain and improve productivity.

If you work in a traditional office setting, you want to make sure you keep your computer monitor at eye level. You should be able to keep your elbows and knees at a 90-degree angle, and your feet should be flat on the floor.

If you work in a more physical job and deal with chronic pain, you should always move carefully, particularly if you’re making repetitive motions or lifting heavy things.

When you lift things, try to focus on your stomach and leg muscles instead of relying entirely on your back.

Develop a Morning Routine

There are things you can do in the morning before you ever go into work that will help you manage your pain and be more productive for the rest of the day.

Rather than sleep in until the very last minute and taking food in the car with you or during your commute, try to wake up a few minutes early.

Do some stretching and breathing so that you can loosen up stiff, tight muscles. Even just 10 minutes of yoga each morning can help reduce your pain.

During your commute, consider listening to meditation.

Move Frequently

If you deal with chronic pain or illness, the last thing you might want to do is move, but moving throughout the day will help prevent muscle tension, and it can be good for your mental health.

Every hour, take a walk around the office or outside if that’s an option.

Stand up stretch at a minimum, or just get some sunlight when you have the chance. 

Create Manageable Goals For Yourself

When you deal with chronic pain, it’s easy to get discouraged if you aren’t able to accomplish as much as you’d like to.

However, create very small, manageable goals for yourself each day.

Don’t make your goals so big that you get overwhelmed, don’t meet them, and then become discouraged.

Each small goal that you’re able to achieve in a day can help you feel more productive overall.

Dealing with chronic pain at work is challenging but not impossible. You can be productive if you plan for your pain and your triggers, and learn not to be hard on yourself on the days you can’t get as much done as you’d like to.