June 22, 2022

Working in Retail With Migraine Is Not Easy

Working in retail with migraine, as seen here

Work-life is already stressful for people working in service positions and retail. IHS-GPAC offers tools to help workers with migraine and their coworkers deal with the stresses of everyday life in the retail and service sector. Read on to learn more.

Living with migraine while working in the service industry, particularly retail, presents its own set of challenges. Stress levels are high and hours are long. Many retail and service workers are on their feet all day, helping customers find what they need, and working from home is not an option. The busiest seasons are when most people take time off at home with their loved ones. Stress and demand for services rise during holidays and summer vacations. Additionally, retail workers are often required to work overtime during the busy seasons.  Personalized attention to each customer is expected. The work can be emotionally and physically draining. This makes working through a migraine attack almost unbearable.

The good news is that the right management can help.

Some employees try to “push through it.” They may think they’re not important enough to ask for accommodations. Downplaying the effects migraine attacks have on day-to-day functions can backfire. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for reasonable accommodations. It is illegal to discriminate against employees with a disability or medical condition.

Service Positions Are Challenging With Migraine

Migraine is more than a headache. It’s a genetic brain disease that is the second leading cause of disability in the world. Chronic migraine is defined as having 15 or more headache days per month. There are many more physical side effects than extreme head pain. After the headache phase, people with migraine often experience exhaustion, dizziness and difficulty focusing. These symptoms can last for hours to days at a time.

Working in the service industry means long hours on your feet, often with minimal breaks. Many service workers do not get paid sick days and may live paycheck to paycheck. Stress, harsh lighting, strong smells and noise are regular parts of the job. Service workers also work with little to no medical benefits. Health insurance premiums are often financially out of reach. The combined challenges of living with chronic migraine while working in a retail position can be very taxing.

Can You Get Fired for Having Migraine Attacks?

Suffering from frequent migraine attacks is a disability. Most countries have laws that require employers to set forth reasonable accommodations and protect employees. Because migraine is a disability, you should never be fired due to migraine. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your company’s HR policies and stand up for yourself if you believe you are experiencing discrimination because of migraine.

A doctor must diagnose migraine, but there is no single test to determine if you have migraine. Instead, doctors will base their diagnosis on past symptoms and how frequently attacks occur. Keeping a journal of symptoms will help determine how often attacks happen and what may be causing them. Recognizing signs of a migraine attack early is important. Taking medication early may reduce or stop the headache phase. Sometimes medication and a break will stop a migraine attack before it becomes unbearable.

A great way to manage migraine at work is to put up safeguards to help prevent attacks in the first place. This includes turning down background music, changing lighting and taking breaks more often. Closing the blinds during the brightest part of the day can help reduce the chances of a migraine. Eating snacks throughout the day and drinking water may also help. Stick to a routine and get enough sleep. Talk with your doctor and employer to create a plan for what to do if you experience a migraine attack at work.

Ways to Create a More Migraine-Friendly Workplace

There are ways to make accommodations at work. But how do you know what accommodations to ask for?

Write down your main job responsibilities and identify how migraine attacks interrupt duties. Recognize what your typical symptoms are and what events trigger these symptoms. Migraine is more than head pain, and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and aura. Once you know your triggers and major symptoms, you can brainstorm ideas for how to manage them. Common accommodations an employer can put in place include:

  • Changing out harsh fluorescent lighting.
  • Reducing odors through a fragrance-free workplace policy.
  • Reducing noise.
  • Allowing longer and more frequent break periods.
  • Maintaining a regular schedule and being flexible with scheduling.

Ongoing communication with your employer is important to keep a good work relationship. Educate your employer or HR department about the differences between migraine attacks and headaches. People who have never experienced a migraine attack may not know the difference. If you start to have migraine symptoms that you can’t manage at work, call in as soon as possible. Call your replacement if you’re able, and let your employer know your shift is covered.

Simple changes in the workplace can have a big impact. Reasonable accommodations reduce absenteeism and help employees feel like valuable team members.

Migraine is a serious disease that requires regular treatment. With accommodations, workers in the service industry, even retail, can be productive and comfortable while they have migraine. Educating employers will benefit service workers already working in a high-stress environment. Plus, reducing triggers for people with migraine will increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Having a healthy work environment helps both employees and employers.

For further information about how service workers or companies in the service industry can promote a migraine-friendly workplace, visit the IHS-GPAC website and learn about our workplace initiative.

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