Accommodating Invisible Illness in the Workplace

May 25, 2023
Accommodating Invisible Illness in the Workplace

Neura Health is excited to share that we’ve closed our seed funding round of $8 million, which we’ll use to bring our virtual neurology clinic into the employer benefits market. Now, employers will be able to offer employees unlimited online care team access, one-on-one care coaching and a personalized treatment plan. Crucially, employees with this benefit will be able to hold a video appointment with a neurologist in just 48 hours, compared to the 4-6 month average wait for a typical local neurologist.  By moving beyond offering our proven solutions to individual consumers, we’ll be able to help more people with headache, migraine and ultimately other neurological disorders get the care they need and bring their full selves to work.  

We’re embracing this expansion into the employer market because there is a huge need. Since the pandemic, many employers have become more flexible, accommodating remote work and offering new benefits to attract talent. But even with these changes, not enough is being done to help those with a disability and/or chronic illness, despite the fact that this population is incredibly prevalent in the workforce.

Fifteen percent of the general population lives with some form of disability, including many with chronic diseases. Of those with chronic disease, 96% live with an “invisible illness,” meaning, one that isn’t immediately apparent. Even though employees have the right to reasonable accommodations, the situation is often more complicated. Because of the stigma associated with many of these conditions, many employees aren’t comfortable bringing them to the attention of their managers or colleagues. They fear that doing so will lessen their employer’s opinion of them and call into question their work ethic and ability to do their jobs.

We’ve heard many of our patients tell us that when they do share more about their condition with their managers or colleagues, they’ve felt judged - for needing to take time off last-minute or for exaggerating their symptoms. Those who don’t experience this debilitating condition often cannot understand the full spectrum and complexity of the disease. Migraine is often dismissed as “just a bad headache.”  This stigma can impact employees’ quality of life and contribute to psychological distress, including increased anxiety and stress—two very common migraine triggers that exacerbate the situation.  

Employees deserve the right to a workplace free of such health-based discrimination. More than that, they deserve to have active support from employers who are committed to providing them with solutions and accommodations that empower them to do their best work.

How Employers Can Help Those with Invisible Illnesses

By expanding our offering to employers, we’ll be able to help people living with neurological conditions like headache or migraine -- one out of every six employees – get the support they need. Neura’s proprietary platform allows its care teams to proactively monitor patient outcomes in real-time, enabling a quick feedback cycle to identify the most effective mix of medical and non-medical therapies, cutting down on extended periods of trial and error to find the right solution for each individual patient.

Solutions like Neura, which can provide employees access to the expert care they need in a timely manner, are essential, but they’re not the only solution employers can and should be implementing to help those living with invisible illnesses. There are a variety of other ways that employers can help people living with neurological disorders, as well as autoimmune and mental health disorders, and many of them are relatively simple to put into practice, including:

  • Allowing for a flexible schedule, or the ability to work from home, where an employee can better control their environment.
  • Supporting and understanding breaks for self-care, and encouraging stress reduction techniques.
  • Promoting an open forum to discuss individual needs, so that employees can advocate for themselves without stigma.

At this point, although it is unfair, it is incumbent upon the employee to advocate for these changes themselves, since many employers aren’t always aware of the issues people living with these invisible illnesses can face. It’s important that employees take the step to discuss accommodations with their managers, leaders and colleagues, in the hope that it will soon become the standard.

For neurological conditions in particular such as headache or migraine, there are even more, often simple, steps that employers can take, like:

  • Offering a private dark room for rest and recovery
  • Providing an office space that replaces fluorescent light fixtures with natural or incandescent lights
  • Encouraging a scent-free office space
  • Providing ergonomic accommodations for those with neck muscle tension that lead to headaches

Employees living with invisible illnesses are invaluable assets, and they deserve to be provided with solutions that allow them to be their best.

To learn more about how Neura is helping employers care for those with neurological conditions, learn more about our innovative solution for employers.

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Elizabeth Burstein, CEO
Liz Burstein is CEO and Co-Founder of Neura Health.
About the Author
Liz Burstein is CEO and Co-Founder of Neura Health. She founded Neura Health based on her personal journey with chronic pain, which exposed her to the key challenges of specialist access and care quality that patients face when navigating chronic neurological conditions. Previously, Liz led product development teams at digital health companies Maven Clinic and Zocdoc. She started her career in product management at LinkedIn, where she shipped many core products across both the consumer and enterprise side of the business. Liz also spent time as a venture capital investor focused on enterprise AI, healthcare, and consumer technology. She holds dual degrees in Computer Science and Philosophy from Stanford University.

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