It's often written off as a reason to pop an Ibuprofen, or as "just a headache." But for one in five women in the United States, migraine is a debilitating condition resulting in lost career opportunities.
According to a study by Cove, a migraine treatment platform, 47% of people with migraine feel it has held them back from advancing their career. And almost one third have had to turn down new opportunities because of it; That's around 10% of the female workforce who feel migraine holds them back from achieving what they want to achieve.
This is largely in part to the sick leave migraine sufferers report needing to manage the condition.
90% of migraine sufferers report that they cannot function normally during an attack and attacks can last from anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, according to the American migraine foundation. While most sufferers have an attack once or twice a month, others have chronic migraine, meaning they spend 15 or more days a month with migraine symptoms. That's a lot of time away from work.
In fact, the migraine research foundation found 157 million sick days a year in the United States are attributed to migraine headaches, and over half of respondents to the Cove survey report taking more than five sick days a year.
It should be a shock to no one that greater workplace flexibility would help those with migraine achieve their goals and manage their health condition. Forty-nine percent of Cove survey respondents said more vacation or sick days would create a better working environment for employees with migraine. Another 47% advocate for the ability to work remotely.
However, similar to instituting maternity leave, simply instituting more paid leave isn't the end to cultural barriers that keep people from taking it and still getting promotions, getting raises and getting the dignity they deserve in the workplace. A third of survey respondents felt their coworkers didn’t take migraine headaches seriously, while another 60% aren’t open with their manager about their migraines.
Encouraging coworkers to take sick leave when they need it and doing so yourself is critical to cutting down on the stigma against taking time off and increasing the value of your PTO. Reminding yourself and others to be sensitive to the diverse, often unspoken health needs of others is also crucial to building a company culture that is accessible to people with migraine and conditions like it.