October 13, 2021

3 Ways To Make the Workplace More Migraine-friendly for Employees

More than one in ten employees live with migraine. Creating a migraine-friendly workplace will pay off in decreased absenteeism, increased productivity and improved employee satisfaction. Here’s how to make it happen.

Migraine is a disabling yet prevalent condition that affects a person’s day-to-day life—including their time at work. With more than a billion people globally experiencing migraine, this condition is common in workplaces around the world.

When migraine and headache disorders aren’t optimally managed and supported in the workplace, organizations pay a significant price. From the limited research available, lost productivity due to migraine costs employers up to $50 billion in the U.S. and €88.3 billion in the EU annually. Work absences and short-term disability claims make up some of these large numbers. But it also accounts for presenteeism—those times when employees are present at work but not as productive as they could be.

Especially as many companies welcome employees back to an office setting, it’s important for employers to think about how to make the workplace more migraine-friendly. Proper education, awareness and support for those living with migraine will create an inclusive culture. It will also contribute to increased productivity and decreased absenteeism. It’s an effort that builds on itself and has benefits for employees and employers alike.

Establish an Education Program

The first step in creating a migraine-friendly workplace is education. Education is the foundation for creating a more supportive and accommodating work environment, which will lead to increased employee morale, improved productivity and greater health and happiness for employees.

A workplace education program may even be the first time some employees realize that their symptoms may be migraine related. This awareness can empower them to visit a doctor and seek treatment to help them better manage their condition, leading to improved productivity as well as greater health.

On the other hand, people who don’t live with migraine often don’t understand how debilitating the disease can be. With education, they can start to learn about the symptoms and become more supportive and accommodating to others in the workplace.

The IHS-GPAC Workplace Initiative (now operating as GPAC) directly helps provide education about migraine within organizations. According to the Harvard Business Review, simply establishing an education program has shown to increase productivity by 29 to 36%. It also sets the stage for increased support and empathy as well as improved accommodations.

Create a Supportive Culture

Workplaces that provide education about migraine and headache disorders are better able to foster a culture of support and empathy. It’s about reducing the stigma surrounding migraine and sparking a shift in mindset. Team members, managers and top-level executives all have a role to play in creating a supportive workplace.

People with migraine may worry that they’re viewed as unable to be fully present and productive. They may have to deal with migraine on the job, or their symptoms may require flexibility on where, when or how they work.

When employers understand and respond to their needs, they directly benefit with a decrease in absenteeism and presenteeism and a boost in productivity and employee morale.

Offer Workplace Accommodations

Many employers aren’t sure how to accommodate employees with migraine or what types of accommodations they could make. The GPAC Workplace Initiative provides a roadmap for planning and implementing workplace accommodations for people with migraine.

As a start, organizations can assess the physical space of the workplace and identify potential migraine triggers. Small changes to the workplace environment can make a big impact on preventing or reducing migraine symptoms.

It’s also helpful to consider your employees’ work schedules and commutes. The migraine brain craves consistency but also requires flexibility for opportunities to rest, take a break or work from home when possible. Adequate time for eating meals and staying hydrated are also key.

With workplace accommodations, employees are able to better manage their migraine, maximize productivity and feel happier, healthier and more satisfied with their work.

This combination of education, support and accommodations will go a long way to making an organization’s workplace migraine-friendly. Start with education, foster support and then build in accommodations that promote employee wellness. It’s a process that will yield benefits for the long term.

If you’re interested in bringing the GPAC Workplace Initiative to your workplace, learn more and find helpful tools to help you make a difference on the GPAC website.

¹IHS-GPAC Impact Report 2020-2021.

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