In The Workplace

Why people with headache and migraine disease make great employees.

By Janet Jay

It’s not simple, the decision whether or not to tell your employer about your headache disease. There are laws that protect patients; however, repercussions and roadblocks still exist. Although some employers unfortunately see the disease as a negative, employees with headache disorders can actually bring some unique strengths and perspectives to their job performance.

Individuals with headache and migraine diseases make great employees because they:

  • Plan ahead. If you suffer from headache and migraine diseases you probably understand just how crucial a few minutes can be, both the precious few minutes without pain and the drain of trying to function through a migraine attack. People with migraine already plan their lives around their symptoms; so incorporating these skills into an office environment is no problem. A person with migraine knows the importance of a schedule and a deadline.
  • Collaborate. No man is an island, and chronic disorders like headache and migraine diseases usually prove the truth of that statement quickly. It’s difficult to handle a diagnosis like headache disorder alone. It’s similarly rare to find a work role that doesn’t require you to interact with and rely on other employees. The collaborative skills that patients with migraine learn in a social and medical setting can be reapplied to assist with coordinating tasks in a work environment.
  • Empathize. While the specific experience of having migraine may not be universal, the empathy that results from it is. There’s a type of understanding that only comes through experience, and people with migraine disease are often masters at it. Employees with chronic conditions are more likely to be able to identify and empathize with coworkers or clients dealing with hardships.
  • Coordinate. People with migraine learn how to both ask for and volunteer help when necessary. An employee with migraine may often be the first to notice an interpersonal problem and work to avert it. Additionally, employees with headache and migraine diseases excel at productivity on days when they aren’t suffering from attacks. Understanding struggles, they are also employees who will step up to pick up a shift if a coworker needs to be out for some reason.
  • Problem-solve. People with headache and migraine diseases are problem-solving whizzes, as they’ve learned how to successfully treat and balance health issues with everyday life. Their creativity and unique perspective prove singularly valuable to an employer.

In return for being a great employee, those living with headache and migraine diseases ask for simple employer accommodations such as adjusting lights, allowing sunglasses to be worn inside, or even having the ability to work from home when needed. Above all, employers need to understand that these diseases are not ‘just a headache.’

Callout box Bio:

Janet Jay’s has had chronic back pain and depression since high school, and recently had surgery for a herniated disc. Despite that, she’s had a successful career for over a decade in communications and freelance journalism. Janet has been published in Maxim, Vice Motherboard, and Popular Science. She is an advocate, involved in her local chronic pain community, and also serves as Communication Specialist for the U.S. Pain Foundation.