January 5, 2022

Advocating for Accommodations in the Workplace

Patient Advocacy in the Workplace

A few simple workplace accommodations can significantly improve the day-to-day work experience for people with migraine. Learn how to advocate for yourself or others with migraine in your workplace.

1 in 7 people worldwide experience migraine, and it’s the third most prevalent medical illness globally. Every day, people with disabling migraine attacks have to be absent from work. They may also still be present but can’t be fully productive. Migraine has a direct effect on workplace performance and productivity.

What are reasonable accommodations?

Since migraine is a disability, a person with migraine has the right to request reasonable accommodations for their disease. These accommodations will vary from person to person, for everyone with migraine has different triggers. But they may include adjustments in lighting or scents.

What are some examples of reasonable accommodations in the workplace?

Making workplace accommodations for migraine doesn’t have to be complex. Simple steps can have a big impact in helping people feel comfortable and be more productive. Examples of reasonable accommodations could include changing the workplace environment to reduce potential migraine triggers and building in breaks for fresh air, regular meals and movement. You can also advocate for more flexible scheduling to decrease workplace stress. It also allows people with migraine to fully rest, recover and get back to work more quickly.

Reasonable accommodations help people with migraine prevent symptoms, function more productively and feel comfortable getting the rest they need to feel their best. In turn, these accommodations increase individual productivity, foster collaboration, boost overall productivity and create an inclusive, supportive workplace culture.

How do I determine the accommodations I need at work?

The accommodations you need may differ from those of someone else with migraine. Accommodations can vary based on specific migraine triggers, migraine symptoms, or other medical conditions you have. It may also change based on your specific work functions, conditions or schedule. A good first step is to write down your work functions and how migraine affects them. That way, you can discuss them with your doctor. It will help them understand the impact of migraine in your professional life.

Your doctor may have ideas for optimizing your treatment to help you. They may also guide you or support you in asking for reasonable accommodations. Sometimes, you can talk to your manager or supervisor directly if you feel comfortable. From these discussions, you will know what can be done for you to feel better and more productive at work. For example, you could be sitting at a desk next to the kitchen where it is noisy with unpleasant smells. Considering this, you could ask to work at a desk in a quieter area with less odor and hopefully natural light. It is always good to let your doctor know you need reasonable accommodations so they understand how migraine impacts your life.

What is employee advocacy?

Employees can make a significant impact on the future of their company and its work culture. As an employee, you have the power to create awareness and promote workplace accommodations for migraine. You can do this by speaking up, building support, and sharing resources. You can also request formal advocacy from our Global Patient Advocacy Coalition (GPAC) or local groups that focus on migraine or headache advocacy.

If you have migraine, advocating for simple workplace accommodations can significantly impact your ability to work productively. It can also help you manage your migraine symptoms. Even if you don’t have migraine, know that many of your coworkers and colleagues are likely showing up to work while dealing with excruciating head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light, odors and sounds.

The stigma surrounding migraine is real. It can be difficult for people with migraine to ask for accommodations. By standing up for others who would otherwise hesitate to speak up for themselves or recommending the company-wide IHS-GPAC Migraine Fitness at Work program to your employer, you can make a difference for them and your larger workplace.

The first step to advocating for yourself or others is to arm yourself with information to back up your requests. The IHS-GPAC website contains information about the impact of migraine and ways to reduce the stigma and support those with migraine, cluster and other headache disorders. For example, this case study about a workplace migraine program could help illustrate the significant payoff your company will see when it makes reasonable accommodations for people with migraine.

In working together, the advocates in your company will find ways to reduce stress, encourage breaks, and eliminate common triggers. This helps promote a healthy workplace culture that allows for adequate rest and open communication.

GPAC is here to answer questions and help employers create a customized migraine wellness initiative suited to the needs of their employees. We created the Migraine Fitness at Work program in partnership with the International Headache Society to raise awareness of the impact of migraine and extend tools to more workplace advocacy groups and employers around the world.

Reasonable accommodations in the workplace support people with migraine and increase productivity, making a difference in the workplace and the lives of employees with migraine.

If you’re interested in bringing the IHS-GPAC Migraine Fitness at Work Program to your workplace, learn more and find helpful tools to help you make a difference on the IHS GPAC website.

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