How to Evaluate Your Workplace for Migraine Accomodations
Despite the prevalence of migraine disease, which affects 1 in 6 U.S. workers, the majority of employers are doing little, if anything, to support impacted employees. Because migraine is an invisible illness – meaning it is not typically outwardly obvious to others – most employers don’t see the impact that migraine can have on their teams, including their ability to be productive at work.
Employees with migraine disease miss on average 4.4 days of work annually due to their condition, and spend another 11.4 days at work with reduced productivity. Based on the average salary of an employee today, this loss in productivity is equivalent to $2,405 per employee per year.
Because many employees aren’t comfortable speaking about the reasons for their presenteeism and absenteeism – due to fear that they may be stigmatized and judged by their fellow colleagues and managers – many carry on to the detriment of their own wellbeing, as well as their professional success.
To solve for these issues, employers must create environments and protocols that accommodate workers with migraine disease. Employers should first understand common triggers that exacerbate migraine symptoms, and evaluate their workplaces to determine where they exist and where they can be reduced or eliminated. Common migraine triggers include:
- Bright, non-adjustable lighting
- Strong odors like perfumes or cleaning supplies
- Excessive/repetitive noise
- Computer screen glare
- Rigid schedules
To help mitigate these triggers, employers can institute include simple actions such as:
- Providing unlimited PTO: Having flexibility to see doctors without judgment enables chronically ill employees to properly manage their conditions, while also getting the time off needed to relax.
- Offering the ability to work from home: Total control over one's environment enables employees to efficiently address symptoms. Often employees experience severe nausea and vomiting during migraine attacks, and it is much easier to work from home than in an office.
- Creating in-office wellness rooms: If employees DO come into the office, employers should offer a sensory-friendly room to limit exposure to harsh light and scents – common triggers for those with migraine disease – enabling employees to rest and recharge during the workday.
- Allowing breaks: Migraine attacks are exasperated by environmental triggers and stressors. The sooner employees can address an attack, the sooner they can return to baseline and productivity.
- Ensuring employees have access to the medications that they need: Delaying proper treatment can contribute to migraine disease progression, so it's critical that employees access the medications their doctors prescribe as quickly as possible.
By implementing accommodations like the ones listed above, employers can help employees be their most productive selves, to the benefit of all involved. Employers can take their efforts one step further by fostering a culture in which employees with migraine and other invisible illnesses do not feel like they are being judged by coworkers or managers for utilizing accommodations like taking breaks during the workday. That requires educating all employees on the impact of migraine and being accepting of those who are living with it.
Implementing accommodations for migraine might not be top of mind for employers, but a few simple steps can dramatically improve the productivity and experience of individual employees — benefiting both the individual, and the companies they work for.