How Balance Disorders in the Office Affect Employee Productivity

March 07, 2019

Woman experiences vertigo at work
Ben Eubanks

If you've ever experienced dizziness due to an illness or migraine headache, you know the dangers of vertigo at the office. Balance disorders can affect the health and safety of workers on the job, but they can also impact employee productivity as well. For instance, vertigo creates a sensation of spinning or dizziness caused by a disturbance in balance, which could hamper someone's ability to do the job properly.

According to the Americans with Disabilties Act, a disability is defined as any limitation that affects more than one or more major life activities. With that broad definition, vertigo and other balance disorders fit the bill, which means employers must be ready to open a dialogue about reasonable accommodations if necessary.

Accommodating Balance Disorders and Vertigo at the Office

Having dizziness at home is one thing, but having it at work is another. According to research from National-Louis University, approximately 69 million Americans are affected by vertigo and other balance (vestibular) disorders. The good news is that these disorders can be treated by addressing some of the common elements that are involved, such as stress, fatigue and environmental factors, as highlighted by Vestibular.org.

  • Stress: Increased stress can lessen the ability for the brain to focus, creating more challenging moments when experiencing dizziness and other symptoms of vertigo. Reducing stress can help to minimize these symptoms.
  • Fatigue: Similarly, if someone with vertigo is using more physical energy to maintain posture and balance, then that can tire them out more quickly, leaving little energy for other activities. By eating the right foods and drinking enough fluids, it's possible to lessen the symptoms of fatigue.
  • Environmental factors: Even something as seemingly simple as lighting can affect someone's ability to see clearly. Fluorescent lighting can cause difficulties, but if lights can't be changed, workers can sit facing away from light sources to help cope.

Just like some concerts and live events have "sensory friendly" shows to support their fans with sensory disorders, it might make sense to reserve a space or two in the office for those that are more sensitive to various environmental triggers.

Supporting Employee Productivity

Ultimately, employees want to be productive, even if their physical and mental ailments may get in the way. The Job Accommodation Network offers insights into how employers can help employees to maintain productivity during these challenging times, such as offering a temporary, flexible schedule or remote work opportunity.

These types of arrangements can help to alleviate the pressure and stress of being "on" while in the office or only during certain periods of time. Flexible schedules give employees some wiggle room for taking breaks to rejuvenate their mental and physical energy. Additionally, the option to work from home eliminates the added stress of commuting to and from work.

While these aren't long-term solutions for all employers, they offer a way to accommodate ailments like vertigo at the office while ensuring that employee productivity is still a top priority.

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