If you have migraines, you know they can ruin your work day. It might be difficult to work—or you might not be able to work at all. One research study found that 76% of people with migraines believed that the condition had a negative effect on work attendance, and 27% said migraines had a negative influence on their careers. So taking steps to manage work and migraines should be a key part of your migraine plan.

First, it’s important to know your migraine triggers. For example, skipping meals, working in bright or noisy areas, being under stress, or smelling certain perfumes and colognes can trigger migraines. Next, plan specific ways to manage migraines at work, depending on your situation.

Adjust your work space to prevent migraines

  • Avoid fluorescent lights, a common migraine trigger. Bring in a lamp or ask to have the lights changed. For example, some of the bulbs can be removed or a diffuser can be placed on the lights. Or try wearing tinted glasses (search for “migraine glasses” online).
  • Avoid other types of glare from things like a computer screen or natural light. If possible, adjust your computer so a window is not directly in front of or behind you. Also, lower the screen brightness and obtain a privacy filter for your computer.
  • Adjust your computer. Changing the monitor height and settings can help. Keep the screen clean. Switching to an LCD monitor and wearing glasses designed for computer work might also help.
  • Work in a quiet area. If your area is noisy, ask to move. You can also try noise-canceling headphones or a white-noise machine.
  • Avoid scents that bother you. Perfume, cologne, shampoo, hair spray, or smells from office machines can trigger a migraine. Many workplaces ask people not to wear personal fragrances for this reason. Talk to a coworker or manager, or move, if possible.
  • Be alert for temperature changes. Getting too hot can trigger a migraine. Dressing in layers or using a small personal fan might help, too.
  • Consider working at home if you have many triggers in the office. This doesn’t work for everyone, but is a good option if your employer is open to it.

Keep a regular routine, including for meals

  • Eat at regular times, especially breakfast, and eat every 3 to 4 hours. Keep healthy snacks with you in case you can't take a meal break on time.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a common migraine trigger.
  • If you travel or attend work events, try to keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Limit caffeine to 2 cups of regular coffee a day, or an equal amount of caffeine from tea or other drinks.

Know your limits during a migraine

  • What you can still do if you have a migraine, and what you cannot
  • Whether there is a “safe” place at work, such as a dark, quiet room where you can rest or work

Have a backup plan for missing work

  • Make up missed work at home or on the weekend
  • Switch shifts with a coworker
  • Ask someone else to assist with your tasks if you have to leave work