Factory workers who experience migraine often face on-the-job challenges. Here are five tips to help workers and their supervisors make their workplace more migraine-friendly.
For more than 90% of people with migraine, the disabling brain disorder interferes with their careers and other activities. No matter how committed employees are, when they are experiencing symptoms, it can be challenging to work productively or collaborate effectively with their team.
For factory or warehouse workers coping with migraine, their physically demanding jobs and loud, bright work environments can contribute to attacks. And like in many workplaces, they may feel a lack of support from supervisors and co-workers. They may also experience limitations due to restrictive workplace policies.
The good news is there are steps factory workers and their supervisors can take to make their workplace more migraine-friendly. Through changes in the environment, workplace culture and company policies, these following five tips offer ways to cope and possibly avoid attacks.
1. Introduce a Workplace Migraine Education Program
Migraine affects 1 in 7 people globally. This means every factory or warehouse likely employs workers who experience this prevalent neurological disorder. By introducing a workplace education program, employees will learn what migraine is, how it affects people both personally and professionally, and discover how to seek or provide support. This type of program builds awareness and empowers workers, ultimately improving employee satisfaction and productivity.
As many as 50% of people with migraine go undiagnosed. With an education program in place, factory workers are able to get help recognizing symptoms, getting diagnosed and seeking treatment. On the other hand, co-workers who don’t experience it have the opportunity to understand it as a disease. Thus they don’t learn just how debilitating it can be. Workplace education programs lay the foundation for creating a supportive and accommodating work environment.
2. Reduce Common Triggers in the Workplace
Working on the factory floor often presents many common migraine triggers. This includes noise, bright lights and physical tasks that may cause poor posture. But there are ways to reduce migraine triggers at work. Factories should follow proper health and safety guidelines, as provided by governmental agencies or professional societies, to promote the wellbeing of workers.
To combat a noisy factory environment, factory workers can wear noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. This not only protects their hearing, but also helps prevent migraine attacks triggered by loud noise.
If there is harsh fluorescent lighting, it may be possible to reduce bright or flickering lights near a person’s workstation. If not, regular breaks for fresh air and natural light can help minimize exposure to potentially triggering lights.
Factory and warehouse workers are often on their feet all day, hunched over machines, packing boxes or lifting heavy objects. Poor posture can cause pain in the neck and shoulder muscles, which can lead to headache. To reduce this pain and strain, workers should be aware of their body alignment and movements, as well as take frequent breaks to rest and stretch.
3. Create a Supportive Workplace Culture
A workplace is much more than the physical environment. Its culture also plays an important role in helping workers with migraine feel supported. The goal is to reduce the stigma that surrounds migraine, one that often stems from a lack of education or misperceptions of the disease.
Through workplace education, accommodations, acceptance and flexibility, factory workers who experience migraine will feel more empowered to request what they need to recover from migraine attacks. These measures ultimately foster greater employee satisfaction, improved mental wellness and a more positive work environment.
Employees without migraine can support those with migraine by:
- Covering a shift when one of their co-workers is having symptoms
- Checking in on them after attacks
- Showing support for migraine-friendly practices or policies
Having support in the workplace can decrease absenteeism (missing work due to migraine) and presenteeism (coming to work while experiencing symptoms, resulting in lowered productivity and potentially extending recovery time).
4. Establish Migraine-Friendly Policies and Best Practices
Some of these steps work from the ground up. But it’s crucial to instill policies and best practices from the top down to help with migraine. These high-level, big-picture policies show that company leaders have awareness and empathy for those with migraine and they believe in creating a migraine-friendly workplace. Supervisors can also speak up and manage their teams to ensure the policies are followed. This type of support from those in management positions contributes to a supportive workplace culture.
Migraine-friendly policies can apply to schedules, time off and breaks. Policies can also apply to reducing potential triggers. For example, providing for consistent daytime or nighttime shifts allow factory workers to maintain a regular schedule and sleep cycle. These are important practices for proper brain health. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers can request reduced work hours or unpaid leaves of absence to cope with and recover from a migraine attack.
While at work, employees should take regular meal and hydration breaks. Skipped or irregular meals and dehydration not only leave workers without the fuel they need to perform, but are also common migraine triggers.
5. Advocate for Yourself and/or your Colleagues With Migraine
If your workplace is not yet offering education, accommodations or policies for migraine, you can help make a difference. IHS-GPAC offers many resources to boost migraine awareness in the workplace. The Migraine Fitness at Work program is a useful tool that was created to empower employees, reduce the stigma related to migraine and provide support to people living with migraine.
Whether or not you personally have migraine, people in your workplace likely experience symptoms and may not feel supported on the job. By sharing information, advocating for accommodations and showing support, you can truly make a difference for those with migraine and your workplace as a whole.