Migraine Awareness Week – how can employers help

Sep 20, 2023 • 4 min read

Migraine is a condition that affects millions worldwide and up to 10 million people in the UK alone. The economic impact is huge, costing £8.8 billion in lost days and productivity every year.  

Yet migraine still struggles to receive the attention it deserves. Despite being the world’s most common neurological disorder, migraines are frequently dismissed as mere headaches. They are complex and debilitating neurological conditions that can result in life-altering symptoms, leaving many sufferers reluctant to seek support. 

This lack of understanding can force employees to hide their condition from employers and colleagues for fear of being unfairly treated. 

Understanding migraine symptoms

So, if a migraine isn’t just a headache, then what is it?

Migraines encompass severe throbbing headaches accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and heightened sensitivity to light, noise, and smells. In more severe cases, they can lead to loss of consciousness or one-sided paralysis. Prior to a migraine attack, migraineurs can experience symptoms such as mental fog, tiredness, yawning, food cravings and mood changes.

While there have been several advancements in migraine treatments over the last decade, there is still no cure, and some are unavailable on the NHS due to the cost of treatment.

Given that one in seven people experiences migraines, it’s crucial for employers to recognise the importance of supporting employees dealing with this condition.

As an employer, you might feel that there is nothing you can do to help employees living with migraine, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Supporting your employees with migraine

Unfortunately, support for employees dealing with migraines and their work-related challenges remains inconsistent and insufficient across many industries. This is an issue that every employer should address, as employees facing migraines should feel supported. Migraine Awareness Week serves as a reminder of the significant impact migraines can have in the workplace and the urgent need for better support.

Migraines, which affect three times more women than men and are genetically inherited by up to 60% of sufferers, require comprehensive support from businesses. While some organisations have begun to acknowledge the episodic nature of migraines, it’s essential for all employers to provide the understanding and assistance necessary for a harmonious work environment.

Identifying migraine triggers in the workplace

To better support employees dealing with migraines, it’s important to understand migraine triggers and implement appropriate workplace adjustments. Migraine triggers include hormone changes, disrupted sleep patterns, and high stress levels. Workplace triggers might encompass extended computer usage, poor posture, inadequate workspace ergonomics, and other environmental factors. 

Employer strategies for migraine support

Here are some steps you can take to reduce migraine in the workplace: 

1. Lighting: Install a well-designed lighting system resembling natural daylight. Reduce harsh artificial lighting and glare.  

2. Educate leaders: Train your team leaders and managers about migraines.  

2. Noise Control: Maintain minimal noise levels from machinery. 

3. Ergonomics: Provide ergonomically designed workstations. 

4. Stress Management: Monitor employee stress levels and ways to reduce unnecessary stress in the workplace.  

5. Hydration: Ensure easily accessible drinking water. 

6. Migraine Contingency Plans: Encourage the creation of contingency plans for migraine episodes. 

7. Awareness: Demonstrate consideration for this matter to positively impact all staff. 

8. Employee Outreach: Initiate an outreach day for employees to discuss their concerns openly. 

9. Work-Life Balance: Promote a culture of work-life balance. 

10. Environmental Control: Ensure efficient ventilation to remove strong smells. 

11. Flexibility: Offer flexible working hours or remote working opportunities. 

12. Rest Areas: Provide a dedicated rest area for employees.

While larger organisations may have the resources to make various adjustments, smaller businesses can also implement small changes that will significantly impact their employees’ ability to thrive in the workplace. We firmly believe that individuals dealing with migraines deserve better support, and no one should face this condition alone.

Join us during #MigraineAwarenessWeek (24th – 30th September 2023) to raise awareness about living with migraines in the UK. As employers, let us commit to creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace for all, including those who battle migraines. 

Useful resources:

The Migraine Trust – Migraine Awareness Week 

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