Migraine in the Workplace

Migraine in the Workplace

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, and yawn and stretch and try to come to life…

Jump in the shower, and the blood starts pumpin’, out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’ for folks like me on the job from 9 to 5…

Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’, barely gettin’ by, It’s all takin’ and no givin’, They just use your mind and they never give you credit, It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it…” 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton 1980

Working 9 to 5 or 6, etc can be stressful, with deadlines to meet, files to be filed, emails to answer, holes to be dug, trees to be planted, etc so the last thing anyone needs on top of that is a migraine. That ‘cup of ambition’ and ‘traffic jumpin’ may be two of the things that will push a migraine sufferer over their threshold and into Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” sentiment!

The workplace can be a minefield for a migraine sufferer, especially an office environment, where everywhere you turn there’s a potential trigger, be it fluorescent lights, overpowering perfume, long periods in front of a computer screen, loud noises from machinery, air conditioning, or lack thereof… It can all be overwhelming.

To ask your colleagues and boss to help you by not doing something, or changing something in the office is a daunting prospect as you first have to tell them that you suffer from migraine, then you have to try to explain that it’s not just a headache, you’re not taking the mick, and you’re not looking for time off. Then you might have to go through all of the other symptoms to explain it better, after which, you have to wait and see if they accept it and are willing to help, or if they’ll just brush you off and tell you to cop on!

If you work in a small office, with a few close colleagues who know you and understand, then this is easier, but if you work in a huge office with many other workers, then who’s going to care what just one of you suffers from…? especially as they may have to stop doing something that they like, such as wearing their favourite perfume/aftershave every day.

This is where the Migraine Association might be able to help. As part of our Corporate Outreach Program we try to educate people in workplaces about the disorder. The program is aimed at those with migraine, those who work with sufferers and those who employ sufferers by showing that migraine is a hidden but very real complex neurological condition which can have lasting and devastating effects on a person’s life if not managed well.

You might be surprised by how many people will be willing to make that small change and help. You might also be surprised at how many others in the office might be hiding the fact that they too suffer. Inevitably, once the discussion is opened up, many people will say that if not they, at least one relation suffers from migraine. That is when you can begin to change things…

When people learn more about migraine and its symptoms, and realise the effect on a sufferer, their family and friends, they begin to appreciate that something as small as not wearing their favourite perfume/aftershave to the office is not going to kill them but might save a colleague from needless stress.

If you’re in a situation similar to this, then please contact us, either directly or through your occupational health department. We are happy to go to offices, construction sites, hospitals or any kind of workplace (even the International Space Station) to educate people about migraine. We can do a stand-alone event like a talk and presentation, or have a stand as part of a staff health and wellness day. We can have an information stand in the canteen and people can drop by when or if they want to; you tell us what you want and we’ll do our best to help.

For many people one of the biggest triggers is stress, but there are many other triggers found in the workplace, including:

  • Long periods in front of a computer screen
  • Delayed or irregular meal patterns
  • Poor posture at a desk
  • Lack of exercise
  • Loud noise or bright lights
  • Dehydration
  • Strong Smells
  • Air Conditioning or lack of Air Conditioning

DL Migraine Leaflet FINAL

Tips for Employees

In September 2015 we revealed the Irish data from a European Survey on the Impact of Migraine. The results were very interesting;

  • 14% of people who answered said that they either did less well in education or gave it up early
  • 28% did less well in work or took an easier job
  • 31% reported reduced earnings
  • 77% could not work go to work on 1-3 days in the previous 3 months
  • 42% could do less that half on 5 days or more in the previous 3 months

all because of migraine…

Here are a few tips for employees who suffer from migraine and find it affecting their work…

  • Stick to regular eating and sleeping patterns
  • Keep your migraine diary to try to identify your triggers or a pattern
  • Make time for relaxation and regular light exercise
  • Have your medication handy at all times
  • Learn to recognise your symptoms so that you will know when an attack is about to happen
  • Take responsibility and learn about your condition
  • Talk to your GP about management and treatment plans
  • Inform your employer and educate your boss and colleagues
  • Take regular breaks, especially from computer screens and stressful situations
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try to get some fresh air if you can
  • Try to make your working environment as comfortable as possible
  • Do regular exercises to avoid stiffness and tension
  • Keep a fan nearby or ask to change your desk to one near a window
  • If you work outdoors a lot or drive, make sure you have a proper pair of polarised sunglasses and/or a pair of wrap-around shades
  • Recognise the prodrome part of the migraine so that you can pull in and take your medication, then if necessary and possible, find a safe place and have a rest or a sleep in the car
  • If you have to travel around the country, plan well and try to make sure you have plenty of time and are not under pressure to make a meeting

Obviously not all of these tips are going to be always doable, and a lot depends on the size of business and type of work, but with the help of informed and sympathetic colleagues you can participate fully in a rewarding working life.

 

How do I know if an Employee/colleague is suffering from a Migraine?

There is no specific test for migraine, a diagnosis depends on careful history taking.

It is described as an ‘invisible illness’ as there are no obvious external signs of discomfort, and sufferers are well between attacks. Some people may be able to identify a pattern and their triggers, but others find attacks can strike at any time with very little warning. The unpredictable nature of migraine can lead to anxiety for an employee.

Some people are more severely affected than others and unless you know the person well, these changes may not be immediately noticeable. Some people may appear very pale, be unable to concentrate or focus, and be unable to articulate as clearly as usual, or will slur their speech.

The individual nature of migraine is something to bear in mind as not all sufferers are affected in the same way.

 

Tips for Employers

Migraine is a real medical condition, just like diabetes, epilepsy and asthma, and is more prevalent than all three of these conditions together. It affects 12 – 15% of the population, meaning that at least 600,000 people in Ireland alone suffer. 5% (30,000) of migraineurs are chronic sufferers, which means that they suffer severe pain and debilitating symptoms for at least 15 days per month!  On any given day, at least 13,000 people in Ireland experience a migraine attack. Chances are, some of them work with or for you!

Migraine is particularly hard to understand for people who have no experience of it because it is invisible, with no signs of external discomfort at all, and sufferers appear fine between attacks. Many sufferers act as though everything is fine to cover up the fact that they are in the middle of a bad attack to avoid being classed as lazy, skiving or weak employees. This is down to the perception that migraine is a headache and that’s all, and, that it can be cured by taking a paracetamol!

Migraine has real, debilitating and sometimes devastating effects on a sufferer’s life. This in turn affects their working life, can have a significant impact on business, with repercussions for employers, and in the long-term, can even affect the national economy.

Some startling statistics were gleaned from an MAI survey;

  • Migraine is responsible for the loss of over half a million working days each year in Ireland
  • It costs the Irish economy on average €252 million per annum!
  • The unemployment rate in individuals with severe migraine is between 10 and 20% compared to an overall rate of 5%
  • The average migraineur takes 2 sick days per year and loses another 4 in reduced productivity

Despite the massive impact that migraine can have on job satisfaction only 50% of sufferers are receiving treatment. Sick leave policies can unfairly penalise migraineurs, leading to an increase of ‘presenteeism’ (the practice of going to work despite illness) in toe workplace.

With a few small changes and a bit of understanding, this can all be avoided. With the right information, support, treatment and understanding, the majority of migraineurs can bring their condition under control, reducing the frequency and severity of attacks, thereby reducing the affect on their work, boss and colleagues.

 

What can I do for a migraine sufferer as an employer?

  • Educate yourself and your staff
  • Let your staff know that you are open to them coming to you about health problems they may suffer from
  • Be supportive to those who do
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of migraine, be aware of who suffers
  • Contact the MAI for help and information
  • Direct sufferers to MAI for the same
  • Come to any of our free Migraine Events to find tips from medical experts, complementary therapists, sufferers, etc
  • Be tolerant of someone who seems to have slowed down, don’t assume that because someone looks well, they feel fine
  • In the office, install and maintain a good lighting system which is as near to natural daylight as possible
  • If strong fumes or smells are produced make sure that efficient extractor fans are maintained
  • Try to keep machinery noise levels to a minimum
  • Provide computer screens with a low flicker rate, or non-flickering screens
  • Provide special screen guards if you can’t afford to change screens
  • Design or install ergonomic work stations
  • Be aware of patterns in carpeting or decor you might be having done, believe it or not some patterns can badly affect a migraine sufferer, e.g zigzag lines, houndstooth and other patterns that are very busy
  • Have a water fountain or readily available drinking water
  • Organise outreach/wellness days for your staff
  • Encourage a healthy Work/Life balance culture
  • Consider allowing flexible working hours
  • Provide a darkened area or rest room for staff
  • Provide stress management training
  • Consider having a perfume/aftershave-free office
  • Allow breaks as often as necessary for food and medication
  • Let people know that if they are unwell, they are not expected to show up for work  one of the aims of MAI is to have fairer sick-leave policies which do not penalise sufferers but instead reflect understanding

Some of the tips above are more practical and practicable than others. Obviously a lot depends on the size of your business and how much you can afford to spend, however, a little understanding and implementation of small changes that won’t cost anything can make all the difference to having a more content and productive workforce.

While larger companies can afford to make many adjustments, smaller businesses can still implement changes that can make the difference to their staff being fully able to partake in their workplace.

The following paper was recently published by Caoimhín MacMaoláin, Associate Professor of Law, School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, An Investigation into the Potential for Migraineurs to be Protected by Employment Laws in the EU to take a look at the legal rights of migraine sufferers in the workplace.

 

Migraine Corporate Outreach

The MAI Corporate Outreach service is an educational programme on migraine management directed primarily at employees with migraine.

Lasting about one hour, it can be a stand-alone event or part of a staff health and wellness day. It aims to give migraineurs the know-how to manage their migraine in general with a special emphasis on the workplace.

By the end of the session, participants should have acquired the tools to help reduce the frequency of attacks and lower the effect of migraine in their work.

We can also provide information and training to employers – our aim being to raise their awareness of the condition so that they can learn how to adapt the workplace to facilitate sufferer

The programme, which includes a presentation and a Q & A session covers;

  • Types of migraine and their symptoms
  • Identifying an eliminating trigger factors
  • How to manage migraine
  • Complementary treatments for migraine
  • Reasonable adjustments and helpful hints for dealing with migraine in the workplace
  • Supports available from the MAI
  • Specialist medical services available for migraineurs

Contact us at info@migraine.ie for more details.

It is well recognised that work affect social cohesion and quality of life. Creating a healthy working environment can be a facilitator rather than a barrier to a person living with migraine. 

Migraine in the Workplace

Migraine in the Workplace

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, and yawn and stretch and try to come to life…

Jump in the shower, and the blood starts pumpin’, out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’ for folks like me on the job from 9 to 5…

Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’, barely gettin’ by, It’s all takin’ and no givin’, They just use your mind and they never give you credit, It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it…” 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton 1980

Working 9 to 5 or 6, etc can be stressful, with deadlines to meet, files to be filed, emails to answer, holes to be dug, trees to be planted, etc so the last thing anyone needs on top of that is a migraine. That ‘cup of ambition’ and ‘traffic jumpin’ may be two of the things that will push a migraine sufferer over their threshold and into Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” sentiment!

The workplace can be a minefield for a migraine sufferer, especially an office environment, where everywhere you turn there’s a potential trigger, be it fluorescent lights, overpowering perfume, long periods in front of a computer screen, loud noises from machinery, air conditioning, or lack thereof… It can all be overwhelming.

To ask your colleagues and boss to help you by not doing something, or changing something in the office is a daunting prospect as you first have to tell them that you suffer from migraine, then you have to try to explain that it’s not just a headache, you’re not taking the mick, and you’re not looking for time off. Then you might have to go through all of the other symptoms to explain it better, after which, you have to wait and see if they accept it and are willing to help, or if they’ll just brush you off and tell you to cop on!

If you work in a small office, with a few close colleagues who know you and understand, then this is easier, but if you work in a huge office with many other workers, then who’s going to care what just one of you suffers from…? especially as they may have to stop doing something that they like, such as wearing their favourite perfume/aftershave every day.

This is where the Migraine Association might be able to help. As part of our Corporate Outreach Program we try to educate people in workplaces about the disorder. The program is aimed at those with migraine, those who work with sufferers and those who employ sufferers by showing that migraine is a hidden but very real complex neurological condition which can have lasting and devastating effects on a person’s life if not managed well.

You might be surprised by how many people will be willing to make that small change and help. You might also be surprised at how many others in the office might be hiding the fact that they too suffer. Inevitably, once the discussion is opened up, many people will say that if not they, at least one relation suffers from migraine. That is when you can begin to change things…

When people learn more about migraine and its symptoms, and realise the effect on a sufferer, their family and friends, they begin to appreciate that something as small as not wearing their favourite perfume/aftershave to the office is not going to kill them but might save a colleague from needless stress.

If you’re in a situation similar to this, then please contact us, either directly or through your occupational health department. We are happy to go to offices, construction sites, hospitals or any kind of workplace (even the International Space Station) to educate people about migraine. We can do a stand-alone event like a talk and presentation, or have a stand as part of a staff health and wellness day. We can have an information stand in the canteen and people can drop by when or if they want to; you tell us what you want and we’ll do our best to help.

For many people one of the biggest triggers is stress, but there are many other triggers found in the workplace, including:

  • Long periods in front of a computer screen
  • Delayed or irregular meal patterns
  • Poor posture at a desk
  • Lack of exercise
  • Loud noise or bright lights
  • Dehydration
  • Strong Smells
  • Air Conditioning or lack of Air Conditioning

DL Migraine Leaflet FINAL

Tips for Employees

In September 2015 we revealed the Irish data from a European Survey on the Impact of Migraine. The results were very interesting;

  • 14% of people who answered said that they either did less well in education or gave it up early
  • 28% did less well in work or took an easier job
  • 31% reported reduced earnings
  • 77% could not work go to work on 1-3 days in the previous 3 months
  • 42% could do less that half on 5 days or more in the previous 3 months

all because of migraine…

Here are a few tips for employees who suffer from migraine and find it affecting their work…

  • Stick to regular eating and sleeping patterns
  • Keep your migraine diary to try to identify your triggers or a pattern
  • Make time for relaxation and regular light exercise
  • Have your medication handy at all times
  • Learn to recognise your symptoms so that you will know when an attack is about to happen
  • Take responsibility and learn about your condition
  • Talk to your GP about management and treatment plans
  • Inform your employer and educate your boss and colleagues
  • Take regular breaks, especially from computer screens and stressful situations
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try to get some fresh air if you can
  • Try to make your working environment as comfortable as possible
  • Do regular exercises to avoid stiffness and tension
  • Keep a fan nearby or ask to change your desk to one near a window
  • If you work outdoors a lot or drive, make sure you have a proper pair of polarised sunglasses and/or a pair of wrap-around shades
  • Recognise the prodrome part of the migraine so that you can pull in and take your medication, then if necessary and possible, find a safe place and have a rest or a sleep in the car
  • If you have to travel around the country, plan well and try to make sure you have plenty of time and are not under pressure to make a meeting

Obviously not all of these tips are going to be always doable, and a lot depends on the size of business and type of work, but with the help of informed and sympathetic colleagues you can participate fully in a rewarding working life.

 

How do I know if an Employee/colleague is suffering from a Migraine?

There is no specific test for migraine, a diagnosis depends on careful history taking.

It is described as an ‘invisible illness’ as there are no obvious external signs of discomfort, and sufferers are well between attacks. Some people may be able to identify a pattern and their triggers, but others find attacks can strike at any time with very little warning. The unpredictable nature of migraine can lead to anxiety for an employee.

Some people are more severely affected than others and unless you know the person well, these changes may not be immediately noticeable. Some people may appear very pale, be unable to concentrate or focus, and be unable to articulate as clearly as usual, or will slur their speech.

The individual nature of migraine is something to bear in mind as not all sufferers are affected in the same way.

 

Tips for Employers

Migraine is a real medical condition, just like diabetes, epilepsy and asthma, and is more prevalent than all three of these conditions together. It affects 12 – 15% of the population, meaning that at least 600,000 people in Ireland alone suffer. 5% (30,000) of migraineurs are chronic sufferers, which means that they suffer severe pain and debilitating symptoms for at least 15 days per month!  On any given day, at least 13,000 people in Ireland experience a migraine attack. Chances are, some of them work with or for you!

Migraine is particularly hard to understand for people who have no experience of it because it is invisible, with no signs of external discomfort at all, and sufferers appear fine between attacks. Many sufferers act as though everything is fine to cover up the fact that they are in the middle of a bad attack to avoid being classed as lazy, skiving or weak employees. This is down to the perception that migraine is a headache and that’s all, and, that it can be cured by taking a paracetamol!

Migraine has real, debilitating and sometimes devastating effects on a sufferer’s life. This in turn affects their working life, can have a significant impact on business, with repercussions for employers, and in the long-term, can even affect the national economy.

Some startling statistics were gleaned from an MAI survey;

  • Migraine is responsible for the loss of over half a million working days each year in Ireland
  • It costs the Irish economy on average €252 million per annum!
  • The unemployment rate in individuals with severe migraine is between 10 and 20% compared to an overall rate of 5%
  • The average migraineur takes 2 sick days per year and loses another 4 in reduced productivity

Despite the massive impact that migraine can have on job satisfaction only 50% of sufferers are receiving treatment. Sick leave policies can unfairly penalise migraineurs, leading to an increase of ‘presenteeism’ (the practice of going to work despite illness) in toe workplace.

With a few small changes and a bit of understanding, this can all be avoided. With the right information, support, treatment and understanding, the majority of migraineurs can bring their condition under control, reducing the frequency and severity of attacks, thereby reducing the affect on their work, boss and colleagues.

 

What can I do for a migraine sufferer as an employer?

  • Educate yourself and your staff
  • Let your staff know that you are open to them coming to you about health problems they may suffer from
  • Be supportive to those who do
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of migraine, be aware of who suffers
  • Contact the MAI for help and information
  • Direct sufferers to MAI for the same
  • Come to any of our free Migraine Events to find tips from medical experts, complementary therapists, sufferers, etc
  • Be tolerant of someone who seems to have slowed down, don’t assume that because someone looks well, they feel fine
  • In the office, install and maintain a good lighting system which is as near to natural daylight as possible
  • If strong fumes or smells are produced make sure that efficient extractor fans are maintained
  • Try to keep machinery noise levels to a minimum
  • Provide computer screens with a low flicker rate, or non-flickering screens
  • Provide special screen guards if you can’t afford to change screens
  • Design or install ergonomic work stations
  • Be aware of patterns in carpeting or decor you might be having done, believe it or not some patterns can badly affect a migraine sufferer, e.g zigzag lines, houndstooth and other patterns that are very busy
  • Have a water fountain or readily available drinking water
  • Organise outreach/wellness days for your staff
  • Encourage a healthy Work/Life balance culture
  • Consider allowing flexible working hours
  • Provide a darkened area or rest room for staff
  • Provide stress management training
  • Consider having a perfume/aftershave-free office
  • Allow breaks as often as necessary for food and medication
  • Let people know that if they are unwell, they are not expected to show up for work  one of the aims of MAI is to have fairer sick-leave policies which do not penalise sufferers but instead reflect understanding

Some of the tips above are more practical and practicable than others. Obviously a lot depends on the size of your business and how much you can afford to spend, however, a little understanding and implementation of small changes that won’t cost anything can make all the difference to having a more content and productive workforce.

While larger companies can afford to make many adjustments, smaller businesses can still implement changes that can make the difference to their staff being fully able to partake in their workplace.

The following paper was recently published by Caoimhín MacMaoláin, Associate Professor of Law, School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, An Investigation into the Potential for Migraineurs to be Protected by Employment Laws in the EU to take a look at the legal rights of migraine sufferers in the workplace.

 

Migraine Corporate Outreach

The MAI Corporate Outreach service is an educational programme on migraine management directed primarily at employees with migraine.

Lasting about one hour, it can be a stand-alone event or part of a staff health and wellness day. It aims to give migraineurs the know-how to manage their migraine in general with a special emphasis on the workplace.

By the end of the session, participants should have acquired the tools to help reduce the frequency of attacks and lower the effect of migraine in their work.

We can also provide information and training to employers – our aim being to raise their awareness of the condition so that they can learn how to adapt the workplace to facilitate sufferer

The programme, which includes a presentation and a Q & A session covers;

  • Types of migraine and their symptoms
  • Identifying an eliminating trigger factors
  • How to manage migraine
  • Complementary treatments for migraine
  • Reasonable adjustments and helpful hints for dealing with migraine in the workplace
  • Supports available from the MAI
  • Specialist medical services available for migraineurs

Contact us at info@migraine.ie for more details.

It is well recognised that work affect social cohesion and quality of life. Creating a healthy working environment can be a facilitator rather than a barrier to a person living with migraine.