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Migraine Awareness Week

4th September 2019

As our working population ages, employers will need to manage and support more workers with neurological health conditions such as migraine, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, research has suggested. This makes this month’s Migraine Awareness Week a great starting point for health and wellbeing conversations.

Employee health and wellbeing – recognising the impact of migraine in the workplace

Next week, 1-7 September, is Migraine Awareness Week, run by the charity The Migraine Trust to raise awareness of the health condition and to help reduce stigma.

With the trust estimating that as many as 25 million working days are lost each year to migraine, and research suggesting this is only going to get worse as our working population ages, it is an important health and wellbeing conversation for employers to be embracing.

The week itself involves a range of events, including encouraging workplaces to become more “mindful of migraine”. More details of how to get involved can be found here.

More widely, there is growing recognition of the health and wellbeing impact of neurological conditions such as migraine, but also Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, in the workplace, especially as our working population ages.

Impact of an ageing population

For example, a report over the summer by The Economist and Novartis argued that employers will need to become more aware of the needs of staff with these conditions as our working population gets older.

Organisations, it suggested, will need to develop or strengthen existing policies to better support staff suffering from these conditions. They will need to educate colleagues around their capabilities to remove negative perceptions. And they will need to consider introducing workplace adjustments that will enable workers to stay in work longer.

Alongside the ageing workforce factor, the fact work increasingly involves the use of screens, laptops and computers – all of which can put strain on the eyes – makes being aware of the potential causes and consequences of both headaches and migraine that much more important.

Physical environment and culture

As Optima Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Lucy Wright argues, this can mean thinking quite widely about your organisational culture and working environment.

“Whether it’s the physical environment – lighting, glare, types of workstation or seating – or the culture – long hours staring at screens, demands or pressure – it is beholden on employers to be recognising and managing potential factors that can be an issue in terms of causing migraine and headaches.

“We often assume a headache is just part and parcel of daily life – and, to an extent, it is – but headaches and migraines, especially if they become severe and regular, can be debilitating and lead to significant absence as well as have an impact on performance and productivity.

“The Migraine Trust is a good starting point in terms of advice and resources, as will be your occupational health provider. But awareness raising weeks such Migraine Awareness Week are also a great opportunity to kickstart conversations, run health promotion activities and simply reflect on and revisit how you are doing as an organisation in terms of being supportive, of being, as the trust suggests, ‘mindful’ of this condition,” she adds.