Migraines at Workplace

how to deal with migraine at work

Working adults are more likely to suffer from migraines. (Learn more about different types of migraine, their symptoms, causes and treatments here). If you suffer from migraine attacks and you need time off, your performance at work could be affected. Having a good relationship with your employer is the best thing you can do so that you both have the best outcome at work. The following steps can help you manage your condition at the workplace:

  • Check your employer's sickness policies – Migraine attacks commonly last between 4 and 72 hours and a person suffering from this condition needs to take a sick leave. It is very important that you familiarize yourself with your company´s sickness policies and leave-management procedures. If you are concerned about how your migraine-related sick leave is managed, you are entitled to discuss this with your boss or Human Resources Department. Information from your doctor or neurologist can support these discussions.
  • Tell your employer about your illness – Telling your employer about your illness could be a scary thing to do. There are a lot of misunderstandings and stigmas related to migraines.  But your employer will be much more understanding if you tell him or her that you from suffer migraine attacks. Try to be open about your condition and its possible impact on your ability to work. Your boss can´t support you if he or she doesn’t know about the issues you are facing. Have an honest talk with your boss about your symptoms and duration of the attacks.  You can also ask your doctor to write to your boss confirming your diagnosis and the special considerations warranted in your circumstances.
  • Keep a paper trail – It is important that you record in writing when you give notice of your condition, when you request time off for a doctor appointment related to your migraine disease, when you request a sick leave related to migraines, etc. It is also important to record your migraine treatment in writing in case of an emergency.  It will also be a good idea to keep a file with all the correspondence concerning your migraine disease.
  • Keep your boss informed – Keep your boss informed of any changes in your condition and in the migraine treatment you are using, so he or she can support you. Migraine disease is not a constant condition it is a condition that may vary and be unstable and its impact on you at work may vary. Your doctor or neurologist can help you by writing updates for your boss. 
  • Reduce your workplace stress – Stress can be an important triggering factor for migraine attacks. Look after yourself, eat nutritious foods, and rest.  Try to manage your stress. Many companies have special programs to promote workers wellbeing.   Some even have employee assistance programs, gym memberships, and mentoring programs.
  • Deal with the workplace triggers – Depending on the role you have in the company and the company´s nature, there could be some environmental factors that you should consider. Try to determine if these environmental factors are triggering your migraines.  All employers have a duty to manage the health and safety of their staff at work.  If you have concerns talk to your boss about making some changes to the environment.
    • Light- If lights are too bright in your office ask your boss if you can change the bulbs to lower-watt bulbs. Lower the brightness of your computer monitor. 
    • Volume – Try to isolate sound from your office by closing the door. If this doesn´t work add pieces of carpet to the walls.  If everything fails or you don´t have an office wear earplugs. 
    • Odors – Explain to your boss that you have a sensitivity to strong odors. Your boss can explain your sensitivity to your co-workers and to the cleaning person and ask them to avoid using strong odors.
    • Posture – Poor posture, while you are working, can cause tension in your body and trigger a migraine. There are great phone and computer apps that can remind you about your posture whilst at work.

how to deal with migraine at work

  • Have a plan – In case you experience a migraine attack in the middle of a workday, be prepared. Talk to a person that you trust so that if you have an attack he or she can take over your job. If you feel too sick to drive, plan a ride home in advance.
  • Stay hydrated – Dehydration is one of the most common triggers for migraines. Be sure to drink plenty of fresh water.
  • Find a room - Find an unused room where you can lie down in the dark until your symptoms diminish. Have a blanket and a pillow in your office so you can be more comfortable in case of a migraine attack.
  • Have migraine treatments in your office – Look for an empty drawer in your desk and stock it with all the medication you need to treat your migraine attacks. Also, have a stock of snacks to prevent hunger.  Dehydration and hunger may trigger your migraine attacks.
  • Recruit an ally – When you have a migraine attack, have a co-worker help you out. Find someone you trust who will have your back.

Migraines do impact the work life of those that suffer. Your co-workers and your boss are more likely to help you if you are upfront and honest about your condition. Opening up with the people around you at work and implementing strategies when your migraine attack occurs at work, is the best way to move forward when living with migraines and working. Here are 11 interesting facts about migraine.