Stressful jobs, long drives and long periods of concentration throughout the day can leave your employees dealing with migraines.
A migraine is usually a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. Many people also have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. A migraine attack can happen frequently, up to several times a week or it’s even possible for years to pass between symptoms appearing.
Migraine is a common health condition, affecting around 1 in every 5 women and 1 in every 15 men. As an employer, you’ll have no doubt been on the receiving end of absent staff dealing with migraines. Sometimes it can be hard to empathise and relate to how severe it is, but migraines should be taken seriously.
Supporting staff who are dealing with migraines
Whether you’re taking on a new starter or dealing with a long term employee, taking the following steps may help manage the impact of migraine in your workplace:
- Flexible working
To start with, flexible working is a great start. Flexible working is a common feature throughout our blogs that discuss employee wellbeing, reason being, the flexible work pattern allows an employee to manage their condition(s). For example, they may find it easier to work later in the day than earlier in the morning.
- Address any health and safety issues in your work environment
Depending on the employees role and the nature of their work environment there may be additional factors to consider in relation to their migraines. These may concern managing triggers, providing the correct equipment or even avoiding particular activities, for example, taking part in seminars in dark rooms. Focussing on the presentation could bring on certain symptoms of a migraine.
Employees who use computer monitors as part of their job, should be encouraged to take regular breaks from the screen – perhaps they can do other tasks not involving a screen so they keep working?
- Take steps to tackle work-related stress
The pressures of an increasingly demanding work culture can result in significant work related stress for many employees. Depending on the nature of their work this may be consistent or vary across months, years or even throughout a working life.
Stress can have a detrimental effect on sleep, eating habits and general wellbeing which can all be potential triggers for migraines. It’s hard to notice these symptoms in your employees so the best way to attack these triggers is to have clear demands, clarity of role and objectives, regular supervision and support through change should all be adopted into your management systems.
Many employers have additional offerings in place to promote employee wellbeing. These can range from flexible working, employee assistant programmes, gym memberships and mentoring programmes. These types of schemes and offerings can be a big help when it comes to combating stress and dealing with migraines in the workplace.
When it comes to personal discussions, such as wellbeing, speaking to your employees can be a daunting task. When it comes to dealing with migraines, there is so much stigma and misunderstanding around the subject that employers are less able to provide the support employees may need.
Speaking to your employees may help you understand their condition and you may be able to help them by discovering triggers. Have the discussion formally disclosed so it goes on file, this means any changes to management in the future will ensure the employee’s wellbeing is still being taken into consideration.
If they haven’t already seen their doctor to have a formal diagnosis of migraine, then you should encourage them to do so. There are treatments available that can help sufferers manage the symptoms or even prevent migraine attacks. The employee should discuss their migraine pattern with their GP and to keep a diary of when their attacks happen, what they were doing before it happened and even what they’ve eaten to help to understand the triggers.
Ask your employee to speak to their GP, they will be able to write to you to confirm their diagnosis and any important considerations based on their personal circumstances. Letting the professional educate you is the best thing you can do.
For the vast majority of employees, their migraine condition should not be a major work issue although from time to time it’s likely to have an unavoidable impact on work. Thinking about what’s practical for your workplace and putting steps in place to support those affected workers should help to reduce lost productivity and reduce your absence management headache!
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