Menopause in the workplace

I thought you might be interested in a UK government report which addresses the issues women and businesses are facing through women transitioning into menopause. It’s wonderful they are taking this seriously. I have pulled out the key findings below, but if you want the full report visit:

More women than ever are in the workplace, 70% of women in 2017, that is an impressive statistic. Gone are the days of ‘the woman’s place is in the home’. Women also outnumber men in a number of areas such as caring, secretarial, administrative. There are 4.3m women over 50 in employment which means many more women will experience menopause while at work. This group is just too big a contributor to be ignored any more.

Unlike pregnancy or maternity, the menopause is not well understood or provided for in the workplace. There is a lack of knowledge, understanding and support in managers’ and colleagues’ attitudes to menopausal women which makes it harder for them to cope and therefore perform at work.

Whatever the origins of menopausal symptoms, they can lead to women having a reduced engagement with their work, job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation; higher sickness absence and an increased desire to leave work altogether. In turn, symptoms can impact time management, emotional resilience, and their ability to complete tasks effectively.

You feel a whole lot worse from some things in the workplace:

  • Inadequate ventilation, high temperatures, humidity and dryness have a negative impact on the experience of hot flushes
  • Stress related to workload, deadlines, responsibility, formal meetings – especially meetings involving senior colleagues – having to learn something new and/ or presentations is linked to frequency of hot flushes
  • Lack of regular breaks can make coping with heavy or irregular periods, hot flushes and transition-related fatigue difficult
    Confined work spaces or crowding can make the experience of hot flushes worse
  • Lack of access to appropriate toilet facilities, cold drinking water or quiet rest areas. These are life savers when a hot flush strikes
  • Working with men, clients and younger colleagues can cause mid-life women concern that they won’t understand (or care) or that their symptoms will affect the way they look
  • Unsuitable uniforms, ties, suit jackets or other heavy, uncomfortable or cumbersome work-wear can make the experience of hot flushes worse
    The physical demands of some job can make heavy periods harder to manage

There are some things businesses can do to help you:

  • Provide access to fans/good ventilation including windows which open and blinds that can be drawn, to allow women to cope better with hot flushes
  • Ability to control temperature via air conditioning or heating, to alleviate difficulties caused by hot flushes
  • Clean, well-equipped and comfortable toilet facilities near work stations, with appropriate sanitary disposal bins and available feminine hygiene products for women experiencing heavy or irregular periods or urinary incontinence
  • Provision of cold drinking water to allow better management of hot flushes
  • Lighter, non-synthetic workplace clothing or uniforms to accommodate hot flushes
  • Quiet workplace rest areas, so they can relax and take time out when they need to
  • Being able to move if an office is small and confined in case of hot flushes
  • Access to natural light, which has been identified as having a positive effect on mood and the absorption of calcium during menopause
  • Access to female-only showers if possible because of hot flushes or heavy periods
  • A reduction of exposure to noise to help reduce fatigue

My take on this is that the above measures would help everyone (young, older, male/female) in any work environment, not just women experiencing menopause. They would make for a much better workplace and would bring overall wellbeing to everyone, which in turn, would create a happier, more productive workforce, not to mention a place where people would want to work and stay.

If you’re struggling to deal with the symptoms of menopause at work, maybe have a chat with your Human Resources team to see if they are able to help. After all, their role is to keep a happy workforce.

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