Employees with migraine: which preventive steps can you take?
In Belgium, 1 in 9 employees regularly suffers from migraine. Even though the condition has no cure as yet, it is indeed possible to reduce the number of attacks. In the workplace also, several factors are known to trigger or aggravate the throbbing headache. As an employer, how can you reduce them to relieve your employees’ migraine?
In addition to many other types of headache, there are at least seven types of migraine. Unfortunately, science is often powerless against the nausea and increased sensitivity associated with the condition. “Many people don’t even know if they have migraine or another type of headache,” says Peter Winderickx, occupational physician at Mensura. “Because the subject of migraine seems to be somewhat taboo, few people manage to talk about it.“
Open communication in the workplace
“It is up to the employer, in consultation with the company doctor, to foster a climate of open communication in the workplace, including on health-related topics,” says Peter. “If a relation based on trust can be built with all employees – directly or with the help of a counsellor –, employees will talk about their migraine more readily.”
“By making migraine a subject of discussion, as an employer you also give employees scope to anticipate an attack. If they can feel it coming in the morning, they can notify you in time and possibly work – under agreed conditions – from home, away from all traffic and office stresses.”
Small adjustments can already improve the working conditions for migraine sufferers. Peter: “For example, to filter out bright light, there are special glasses or films. It is also essential to avoid the glare of sunlight on the computer screen. Reflective light triggers the throbbing headache. When an employee feels an attack coming, ideally he or she should be able to retreat into a non-illuminated room with reduced light intensity.”
Stress is another factor that might trigger a migraine attack. If sufferers feel that they cannot talk to anyone about their migraines at work, this adds to their stress.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to make migraine a topic of discussion everywhere and to minimise the triggers. But with awareness campaigns, such as Migraine Week, we are making great strides,” adds Peter.