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How a Migraine-Friendly Workplace Can Lead to More Productivity

May 02, 2022

For anyone who has ever experienced a migraine, it should be no surprise that the intense throbbing pain, nausea and sensitivity to light associated with an attack can cause major disruptions to both your personal and professional life.

In fact, migraine is the a leading cause of disability worldwide, largely because of the correlation with people’s most productive professional years.

“From the early 20s to 50s, we tend to see more migraine in patients,” said Olivia Begasse de Dhaem, MD, FAHS, a neurologist and headache specialist with the Ayer Neuroscience Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.

Migraine can often have a ripple effect, impacting more than just the person experiencing symptoms. Migraine is the second leading cause of presenteeism, or lost productivity when an employee is at work but not fully functioning, in the United States –  accounting for 16 percent of total U.S. workforce presenteeism and a $240 billion loss per year for employees.

“There is a lot of stigma around migraine,” Dr. Begasse de Dhaem said. “A lot of people don’t see it as a valid excuse to be absent from work so people with migraine show up to work and push through their symptoms.”

There are measures, however, that both employees and employers can take to increase productivity and make the office more migraine-friendly.

For employees with migraine, Dr. Begasse de Dhaem recommends paying close attention to posture as a poor one can often contribute to migraine.

“If you are standing at work, make sure that you are standing straight,” she said. “If you are sitting make sure that your hips and knees are at a 90-degree distance and that the computer screen is at a 30-degree distance from your eyes so you stay straight.”

She also recommends:

  • Taking frequent breaks.
  • Elevating your computer screen.
  • Wearing blue light filtering glasses, placing a blue light screen filter, or switching your screen to night mode.

For employers, the most important steps are migraine education for everyone and establishing a migraine-friendly workplace.

“People with migraine want others to understand the disease and how it impacts them,” she said. “A migraine education program in the workplace helps to raise awareness and create a migraine-friendly workplace with natural light, scent-free areas, noise reduction, access to water, frequent breaks and a supportive atmosphere.”