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Migraine linked to workplace absenteeism, presenteeism

Pank Jit Sin
05 Oct 2020
Progressive Alliance Towards Healthy Workplaces virtual gathering

While headaches and migraines may seem trivial, they are major causes of absenteeism and loss of productivity in the workplace, studies reveal.

In a Malaysian study done on employees in the banking sector, it was revealed that migraine significantly impacted work productivity and regular activity, leading to substantial monetary loss. This was linked to “not only absenteeism but more importantly to presenteeism,” said Associate Professor Dr Ivy Chung, Deputy Dean of Wellness Research Cluster, University of Malaya. She added: “The Malaysian study presented during the roundtable event highlights the unmet needs in migraine management and the need for a call for awareness and intervention strategies at individual and organizational level.” [J Headache Pain 2020;21:68] Across the causeway, Singapore reported similar findings, that ultimately migraine’s biggest effect on the economy was caused by missed workdays and lost work productivity. [Cephalalgia Reports 2020;doi:10.1177/2515816320908241]

Chung was speaking at an Asia-wide virtual roundtable organized by the Progressive Alliance Towards Healthy Workplaces (PATHw) in support of Migraine Awareness Week. Key leaders across the human resource, business and health industries engaged in meaningful discussion on employee wellbeing during the roundtable themed ‘Reimagining Healthier Workplaces in Asia.’


A great workplace makes for a healthy workforce
The virtual roundtable also brought up discussions on key issues that affect employees at workplaces. One of the participants, Leonhard Schaetz, Global Market Access Director, Neuroscience, Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland, said: “There are multiple issues that affect the workplace, including the increasing prevalence and burden of migraine. In tandem, COVID-19 has shown us how vulnerable our society is by causing profound impacts on the livelihoods of millions and on economies. In light of this, leaders, workplace environments and collaborations play an important role in building a healthier and more resilient workforce.”

Speaking on behalf of  global authority on workplace culture, Great Place To Work® Institute Singapore, senior consultant Tyler Thorpe said: “Our research shows that a great workplace is one in which employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with. Whatever the framework, great workplaces work for both employer and employee. Employers get great results; employees feel appreciated, supported and safe. This foundation is critical to create resilience and to be able to respond to crisis like COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, continuing emphasis on employee health and wellness, creating ‘flexible’ workplaces and mindsets, and being intentional about culture and how to maintain it virtually, is a sure path in boosting productivity and development.”

 

Marla Arnall, senior principal, Asia Consulting Leader, Mercer, Singapore, said: “The pandemic has accelerated action by employers to kick start or strengthen their well-being programmes both to care for their employees and also to control health spend with a focus on preventive health. It should come as no surprise that one of the biggest shifts in wellness plan design hinges on digital access to care—43 percent of employers in Asia have already or are looking to expand their digital well-being offerings.”

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Pearl Toh, 22 Oct 2020
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