Migraine at Work: How it Impacts Us All

With migraine affecting so many of us around the world, a new Migraine Friendly Workplace Stamp in Europe developed by the European Headache & Migraine Alliance recognizes organizations that support their employees who suffer from migraine. We talk to team members at Teva about the experience of managing migraine at work and share their advice and coping strategies.

“My biggest learning about migraine came during a massive attack in 2015, where the pain was so bad that I thought I had a brain haemorrhage and was driven to hospital by ambulance. Once there I recovered in a matter of a few hours and felt extremely stupid. But the neurologist there said something to me that really stuck: ‘You should never feel stupid about having a migraine, it‘s not just a headache and the pain can be excruciating’.”

Paul Williams, Senior Director Corporate Affairs, Teva UK

Maybe you’re a migraine patient or maybe you have a colleague or contact who suffers from this severe and debilitating health condition. Its reach is global and estimated to affect more than 10% of people worldwide [1]. Approximately 39 million people in the US [2] and 41 million in Europe [3] have migraine.

With stats like these, it’s no wonder so many of us have been exposed to its effects – directly or indirectly.

“Migraine pain is overwhelming and that is what people have to realize. Thankfully I have understanding colleagues and a supportive manager who back me up.”
Maria Stahlberg, Quality Manager, Teva Sweden

“My colleagues know that migraine attacks can affect me at any time. They know that in that case I need to go home and leave work rapidly. The fact that they understand my situation and I don’t have to explain anything when I leave is very important to me.”
Eric Deschepper, General Manager Teva Belgium

Once dismissed as “just a bad headache”, migraine is now scientifically recognized as a disabling neurologic disorder characterized by moderate to severe head pain that can be exacerbated by movement and frequently accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and disruption of daily activities.[4]

“My migraines often last a few days. In most cases, the attack begins early in the morning, around 4 am with severe and unbearable pain in the temples, often followed by photosensitivity and even vomiting.”

Hana Chalupníková, Commercial Support Specialist, Teva Prague

New Migraine Friendly Workplace Stamp aims to support migraine patients

A new Migraine Friendly Workplace Stamp in Europe developed by the European Migraine & Headache Alliance (EMHA), recognizes organizations that support their employees who suffer from migraine. It rewards companies who are committed to providing a “friendly” migraine work environment for their employees, whether they suffer from migraine or work with colleagues who are afflicted by this condition. Find out more here.

What does this mean in practical terms?

The Migraine Friendly Stamp program is designed to mitigate the impact of migraine in the workplace by recognizing companies who create a supportive environment for their employees. At minimum this includes education for the work force and might include providing dark rooms where people can rest during a migraine attack or making water fountains widely available to help staff stay hydrated, which can help to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks [5].

Why is this important?

As Teva celebrates Health & Wellbeing Month, the company recognizes that how we feel makes a difference to how we work. This type of workplace support is crucial because there is strong evidence that migraine patients often suffer in silence. In a study carried out by Teva of 12,545 adults with migraine in 16 countries worldwide, 63% of people have hidden their migraine from their employer, and only 1 in 8 people belonged to a patient support group. [6]

Teva has helped to pioneer and has financially supported the development of this initiative in 2021 with the EMHA, working with an expert panel of migraine experts around Europe, including neurologists and physicians in occupational medicine to develop the program. And in June 2022, Teva Pharmaceuticals Europe B.V. was accredited the Migraine Friendly Workplace Stamp.

“Employers need to be understanding and trust that employees will pick up work again when they can and give them the flexibility to shift work to another day, which is the case for me. My boss has created an environment of care so that I know there is help if needed and that I can otherwise just take the time to get better. That in itself helps me as it takes away the stress of talking to an unsupportive boss, stress being a trigger for my migraines – otherwise this would be a vicious circle.”
Paul Williams, Senior Director Corporate Affairs, Teva UK

Migraine at work: the reality

Migraine affects 1 in 7 workers, peaking during an individual’s most productive years, usually between the ages of 35 and 45 [7].

“Many times, I need to go home as fast as possible to isolate myself for the rest of the day. Luckily I have the flexibility in my work to catch up when I am better and I only suffer for one day, feeling normal the next morning – that really helps to limit the impact.”

Eric Deschepper, General Manager Teva Belgium

Research also shows that an average of 4.6 working days are missed a month due to this invisible and disabling disease [8]. Also, many migraine sufferers conceal their migraine at work due to the stigma attached to the disease [9].

“I had to think about my migraine when I chose my job because I needed the flexibility. Now I can adjust my work days if needed. I don’t necessarily tell everyone I meet that I suffer from migraine, some colleagues notice it on their own and thankfully I haven’t had any negative responses at Teva. Everyone is supportive.”
Hana Chalupníková, Commercial Support Specialist, Teva Prague

Teva’s campaign to create a more migraine friendly environment for colleagues who experience migraine and those who support them is ongoing, advocating an open culture of discussion and frankness about the condition – after all, we talk about diversity, mental health and broken bones in the workplace, so why not migraine? The more this is spoken about, the more awareness and understanding of migraine in the workplace we can create.

Advice and resources

At Teva we believe that it’s not just about providing treatments and therapies, but also about helping patients to access information and share their stories for educational purposes, so that we can all benefit. Seek professional care if in any doubt.

“Don't say to yourself that it will go away. Instead, take medicine to relieve the pain. I recommend having a regular regime, taking care of yourself and your mental well-being, not drinking red wine and having friends who will take your children to kindergarten if needed. Also, having pre-prepared meals in the freezer so you don't have to cook can be very helpful.”
Hana Chalupníková, Commercial Support Specialist, Teva Prague

“Migraine is so massively underdiagnosed. If you have a headache that makes you sick, it’s not a headache. So take some action and speak to your GP. And when you have an attack, don’t be a martyr, get treatment and take yourself to bed if needed. No one will applaud you for running around complaining about your pain. Get good at spotting the early signs and come prepared.”
Paul Williams, Senior Director Corporate Affairs, Teva UK

“Don’t wait for the migraine symptoms to develop, just act as quickly as possible when the triggers are there.” Maria Stahlberg, Quality Manager, Teva Sweden

You will find lots of real-life stories and tips from people who experience migraine regularly on Teva’s Life Effects website for patients and carers - choose Life Effects US or Life Effects Europe.

Find out what the EMHA can do for migraine patients here – and join the Migraine Movement, a new project that aims to reach all those who suffer from migraine, directly and indirectly, to join forces to try to change the perception our society has of migraine.


[1] What is Migraine? JAMA Network Open, published by the American Medical Association

[2] How Common is Migraine? Migraine.com

[3] Migraine in the EU: Bringing women out of the shadows, report by European Migraine & Headache Alliance

[4] What is the Impact of Migraine Beyond the Headache? Science of Migraine

[5] Hydration and Migraine: How Drinking Water Can Help You Fight Against Headaches, HappyrHealth.com

[6] Beyond Migraine – The Real You. Survey conducted 2020. Teva Pharmaceuticals. Data on file

[7] EMHA Migraine at Work Survey, 2018-19, Emhalliance.org

[8] My Migraine Voice survey: a global study of disease burden among individuals with migraine for whom preventive treatments have failed, Martelletti et al. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 2018

[9] Beyond Migraine – The Real You. Survey conducted 2020. Teva Pharmaceuticals. Data on file

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