More than eight million people in the UK alone suffer from migraines – that’s more than the whole population of North West England. Today marks the beginning of Migraine Awareness Week 2018 (2nd – 8th September), and we’ve created a blog to support you to understand symptoms of migraines in employees, advising on how to offer support and reducing the ‘it’s just a headache’ stigma.
Migraines are currently the most common and disabling neurological disorder in the UK. Those who suffer can do so for up to 72 hours at a time and can experience severe disruption to their daily lives. Aside from the pain they cause, migraines often bring on unpleasant side effects that add to the severity of the attack. These side effects vary from case to case and appear to be more severe in females than males.
Common Side Effects:
- Visual disturbances (including blind spots and flashing lights)
- Hyper-sensitivity to light and noise
- Lack of concentration
- Tingling sensation or weakness in limbs
With up to 190,000 migraine attacks taking place every day in the UK, absenteeism from migraines could cost businesses around £2.25billion every year. This figure is likely to be even higher, as more than one in three businesses do not know the absence cost to their business and one in four do not record the costs.
So how can employers aim to reduce the impact of migraines to protect employees and optimise productivity in their workforce?
Managing stress / workload:
Migraine and stress are strongly interlinked, and anxiety as well as other forms of tension or shock can all lead to a migraine attack. Managing stress to prevent migraines and other stress-related health conditions is imperative in protecting employees and optimising productivity. With 45% of employees reporting that they would not be confident to share feelings of unmanageable stress or mental health issues with their employer or manager , managing stress in the workplace can prove difficult for managers and HR departments. Monitoring and reducing the workload of employees who are snowed under can have a positive impact on stress levels in the workplace and can prevent long-term health conditions.
In addition to this, introducing a Health Cash Plan is a great option to support employees with stress and mental wellbeing. At Health Shield, we have a range of benefits on our Health Cash Plans to manage stress and mental health, including Thrive, our NHS approved* mental wellbeing app, an Employee Assistance Programme which offers a 24/7 Counselling & Support Helpline in addition to face-to-face or telephone counselling, and a virtual GP service.
With so many of us using a computer at work, health complaints caused by eye-strain, such as migraines, headaches, fatigue and sore eyes are increasingly common in the workplace. Routine desk assessments can be important in preventing migraines, as factors such as screen distance, screen glare and bright lights in direct vision can impact the likelihood of a migraine. Having regular eye check-ups is also important in preventing related health issues, and according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam once a year. Demonstrating the demand for eye care in the workplace, over a million optical claims are made every year.
Proactively supporting employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle:
Support employees to live a healthy lifestyle by introducing things like cycle-to-work schemes, free fruit days, healthy lunch options, decaf hot drinks facilities, and ensure there are plenty of water dispensers on site. Implementing a ‘don’t work outside of work’ policy can also encourage employees to maintain a more regular sleeping pattern and therefore improve absenteeism and productivity levels.
If an employee’s migraines are not improving despite lifestyle and dietary changes, or they are becoming more frequent or intense, they should visit a GP.
Why not consider a Health Cash Plan to help care for the wellbeing of your employees? Health Shield offer a variety of integrated care pathways for employees, supporting employers to create a holistic wellbeing strategy that enables peace of mind.
Find out more about our Health Cash Plans here.
* The app meets NHS quality standards for clinical effectiveness, safety, usability and accessibility and has a supportive evidence base.