Ergonomic desk setup featuring computer monitor on books, computer desk with signals for better posture, healthy snacks and outline of water

Managing Migraines in the Workplace

When a migraine strikes at work, I immediately go into planning mode.

  • What absolutely has to get done before I can wrap up for the day?
  • What’s on my schedule that I’ll have to cancel?
  • How much energy will my commute home take?

The first and last questions are typically the highest priority.

Will I be able to commute?

If a migraine is coming on fast, I, first and foremost, need to make sure I have the ability to drive home safely.

In my early career, I worked in Philadelphia and lived in New Jersey. My commute home involved a six-block walk to the train station, a train ride to New Jersey, and then about a 20-minute drive to my home. On a normal day, I actually enjoyed the commute. On a migraine day, it was torture.

So, I always had to make sure that I factored my commute when deciding how long I could stay at work.

What do I need to prioritize?

Then, of course, there’s the dreaded moment with migraines of determining, “What do I need to prioritize, so it gets done now, and what will have to be postponed or canceled?”

Let’s face it, migraines can put a tremendous strain on both attendance and productivity at work. Yet as someone who thrived on climbing the latter, I was determined to find a way to protect my health and still perform in my career goals.

So how can we best manage migraines at work?

Prevention

This first one is obvious but an important reminder to check the basics. Preventing a migraine is much easier than navigating a full-blown migraine.

Prevention in the workplace can include a variety of steps, including:

  • Create an ergonomically correct setup. I was surprised to see the connection of little details like the placement of my laptop, the comfort of my chair and my posture in it, and the lighting in my office had on my migraine frequency and intensity.
  • Make your desk set up supportive to your healthy habits like always having a water bottle at your desk to stay well hydrated and/or stashing healthy snacks, so you’re helping to maintain balanced blood sugar levels throughout your day.

Stay organized

Staying well organized helps us migraineurs in many ways.

When a migraine hits, it can be extremely hard to focus or concentrate. So, the more organized you are both with your physical environment and your work set up - emails, files, to-do list, etc. – the easier it is to function. I’ve also found organization to be incredibly important if/when I needed to delegate an assignment to someone. It makes for a much easier handoff for both me and my coworkers.

Clear communication

We know all too well, not everybody understands the reality of migraines. I found it important to educate my boss and/or coworkers about migraines so they could better understand if/when I experienced a migraine.

The bottom line is it may take a few extra steps on our end to best manage migraines in the workplace, but it can make it a lot easier on both us and our coworkers when we have a plan in place.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out; this is simply what has worked for me. I’d love to learn what works for you. Please share in the comments below.

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