Migraine and the Workplace: Handling Unscheduled Absences

Migraine and the Workplace: Handling Unscheduled Absences


As someone who experiences frequent migraine attacks, I understand the impact they can have on work productivity and attendance. Migraine Attacks can be debilitating, causing intense head pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and other symptoms that often make it necessary to take unscheduled absences from work. In this article, we will explore strategies for managing migraine attacks in the workplace and effectively addressing the challenges of unscheduled absences.

Understanding Migraine Attacks

Migraine Attacks are a neurological condition characterized by recurring moderate to severe headaches. They are typically accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine Attacks can be triggered by various factors, including hormonal changes, certain foods, stress, and environmental stimuli.

Migraine Attacks and Work

Migraine attacks can significantly impact work attendance due to the unpredictable nature of their occurrence. Employees who experience migraine attacks may face challenges in maintaining regular attendance and productivity. According to research, individuals with migraine attacks are more likely to have higher rates of absenteeism and presenteeism, which is when an employee is present at work but not fully productive.

Navigating Unscheduled Absences

When dealing with unscheduled absences due to migraine attacks, open communication with your employer is crucial. Informing your employer about your condition and discussing potential accommodations and support can help create a supportive work environment that acknowledges and respects your needs.

Importance of Communication with the Employer

It is important to inform your employer about your migraine condition, including its frequency and impact on your work attendance. By sharing this information, your employer can better understand your situation and provide necessary support. Discussing potential accommodations, such as flexible work hours or a quiet workspace, can help mitigate the impact of migraine attacks on your work performance.

Utilizing Sick Leave and FMLA

Understanding your company’s sick leave policies is crucial for managing unscheduled absences. Familiarize yourself with the procedures for reporting sick leave and any documentation requirements. Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons, including migraine attacks. Consult your employer or human resources department to determine if you qualify for FMLA and how to request it.

Tracking Migraine Patterns

Tracking your migraine patterns can provide valuable insights into triggers, frequency, and treatment effectiveness. By identifying patterns, you can make informed decisions about managing your migraine attacks and potentially reducing their impact on your work attendance.

Reasons for Tracking Migraine Attacks

Tracking migraine attacks serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it helps you understand potential triggers, such as specific foods, stressors, or environmental factors, which can guide you in making lifestyle adjustments. Secondly, tracking allows you to assess the effectiveness of different treatments and interventions you may be implementing. Lastly, tracking provides valuable documentation to share with healthcare providers, providing them with a comprehensive view of your condition.

Tools for Tracking Migraine Attacks

There are various tools available to help track migraine patterns. Migraine diaries, either in paper or digital format, allow you to record the date, duration, intensity, and associated symptoms of each migraine attack. Mobile applications specifically designed for migraine tracking offer additional features such as weather tracking and triggers analysis. Additionally, wearable devices like smartwatches can help monitor physiological changes associated with migraine attacks, providing further insights into their patterns and triggers.

Communicating with Healthcare Providers

Effective communication with your healthcare providers is essential for managing migraine attacks in the workplace. Sharing detailed information about your migraine attacks, including frequency, intensity, duration, associated symptoms, and triggers, enables healthcare providers to make informed decisions about treatment options. Additionally, it is important to update your healthcare providers about the impact of migraine attacks on your work attendance and performance, as they may provide advice on workplace accommodations.

Sharing Detailed Information about Migraine Attacks

When discussing your migraine attacks with healthcare providers, document important details such as the frequency, intensity, and duration of your attacks. Note any associated symptoms and potential triggers like specific foods, stress, or environmental factors. This comprehensive information will help your healthcare providers gain a deeper understanding of your condition and guide treatment decisions.

Updating Healthcare Providers about Work-Related Impact

Be sure to communicate the impact of migraine attacks on your work attendance and performance to your healthcare providers. Share any missed work days, challenges you face at work due to migraine attacks, and any difficulties in meeting job expectations. This will allow your healthcare providers to offer appropriate advice on workplace accommodations and potential treatments to help manage your migraine attacks effectively.

Strategies for Managing Migraine Attacks at Work

Implementing strategies for managing migraine attacks at work can help minimize the impact of migraine attacks on your productivity and attendance.

Implementing Preventive Measures

Addressing potential triggers in the workplace can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. For example, if bright lights trigger your migraine attacks, consider using a desk lamp with adjustable brightness or requesting a workspace away from fluorescent lighting. Practicing stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or taking short breaks throughout the day, can also help alleviate migraine symptoms.

Creating a Supportive Work Environment

Educating your colleagues and superiors about migraine attacks can foster understanding and empathy. Raise awareness about the condition and its impact on work performance. Encouraging a supportive work environment where colleagues understand and accommodate your needs can contribute to a more positive and productive work experience.

Accommodations for Employees with Migraine Attacks

Employers can provide accommodations to support employees with migraine attacks. Examples of accommodations include flexible work hours or remote work options, allowing for breaks to rest during migraine attacks, and providing a quiet workspace to minimize sensory triggers. Discussing these accommodations with your employer can help establish a conducive work environment.

Seeking Support from Employers

Employees with migraine attacks can seek support from their employers through various avenues.

Exploring Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) designed to provide support for employees dealing with personal or health-related challenges. These programs can connect you with resources and guidance to help you manage migraine attacks at work.

Requesting Reasonable Accommodations under the ADA

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with migraine attacks may be entitled to reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform their job functions effectively. Consult with your employer or human resources department to understand the process for requesting these accommodations and how they can support you in managing migraine attacks at work.


Managing migraine attacks in the workplace requires effective communication, tracking of patterns, and understanding of available support systems. By openly discussing your condition, utilizing available tools for tracking, and exploring accommodations and support, you can navigate the challenges of migraine attacks while maintaining work productivity and attendance. Employers should strive to create a supportive work environment that acknowledges and accommodates the needs of employees with chronic conditions, ultimately benefiting both the employee and the organization as a whole.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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