Headache is still viewed as a minor ailment that does not require absence from the workplace. Many work through an attack, however those with severe attacks, especially migraine with aura, will find work impossible. Headache affects a large percentage of the Australian workforce and costs dearly in absenteeism and lost productivity. While most people know what a headache is, many underestimate how bad it can be and fail to understand the suffering involved. It is up to headache sufferers to educate employers and colleagues and to take care of themselves at work. The employer should provide employee support and help minimize potential triggers.
Headache sufferers can help themselves with:
- Regular breaks especially if work repetitive or using computers
- Relaxation techniques to rid the body of tension and stress
- Making work environment as comfortable as possible
- Varying position to avoid stiffness and tension
- Communicating and keeping work organized so colleague could stand in the event of a headache
- Explaining their headaches to colleagues so they understand the necessity of time off from work
- Providing employer and colleagues with information from Headache Australia.
Measures taken by employers will benefit headache sufferers and improve the workplace for all employees. These measures include:
- Good lighting that imitates natural daylight. Any fluorescent bulbs should not flicker.
- Prevent unwelcome glare from natural lighting, highly polished surfaces or bright walls
- Position computers to avoid reflection, fitting anti-glare screens, ensure computers not flickering
- Ensure workplace adequately ventilated and kept at constant comfortable temperature
- Smoke-free environment other than in designated areas
- Efficient extractors if fumes or strong smells produced
- Ear protection if noise a problem, maintain machinery so noise kept to minimum
- Restrict volume of background noise
- Adjustable seating for maximum comfort
- Regular breaks so employees can move away from workstations
- Readily accessible clean drinking water
- UNDERSTANDING: employee will be more likely to try to work through headache if they know they are able to take a break or go home.
Migraine and Other Headaches 2000 Professor James Lance
Understanding Migraine and Other Headaches 2002 Dr Anne MacGregor
Migraine Association of Ireland
The Migraine Trust, United Kingdom
Migraine Action Association, United Kingdom
Prepared by Louise Alexander, PhC, Grad Dip Comm Mngt, Former National Director of the Brain Foundation. Reviewed by Professor James Lance, AO, CBE, MD, Hon DSc, FRCP, FRACP, FAA, Consulting Neurologist, and author, “Migraine and Other Headaches”.