Menopause and the workplace
Menopause is a natural part of life but seems to be a taboo subject when it comes to the workplace. This life changing event for employees cannot be ignored. The impact that it can have, can be monumental if not managed with the necessary support. And it’s not only those who are experiencing menopause who are affected; it can impact on colleagues both directly or indirectly, which is why it should be considered as an organisational issue. The average age that women experience menopause is 51, although one in 100 will go through it before the age of 40.
Menopause can affect women differently and each will have their own individual experience. Symptoms can include:
-night sweats -mood swings
-hair thinning -hot flushes
-weight gain -joint stiffness
-headaches -sleep problems
-memory issues -inability to concentrate
Women can also start experiencing these symptoms when they are peri-menopausal, which is when their bodies are preparing for menopause. This process can go on for up to a year. These changes can cause an increase in absenteeism and can also severely decrease confidence levels. Wellbeing of Women, a UK charity, found that up to one in four women consider leaving their job because of menopause.
Women often try to hide their symptoms or pass them off as related to something else in an effort not to discuss the changes they are experiencing. The stigma, fear of discrimination and perceived embarrassment is very real and leaves women feeling isolated and stressed out.
The University of Bristol found that:
-only 23% of women said that menopause was something they could talk about at work
-over 63% said menopause is not well understood
-30% said that their experience of discussion of menopause at work was that it was joked about
-nearly 50% agreed or somewhat agreed that menopause is a taboo subject
By introducing workshops to educate staff, we are able to better understand this topic and support those around us who may be experiencing menopause. We should also encourage open and honest dialogue; menopause should not be something that needs to be hidden away.
How to support staff
The first step to supporting women going through menopause is by ensuring that they have a comfortable working environment. Simple but very important factors could be:
-Good air ventilation and air quality
-Adequate access to drinking water and bathrooms
-Being able to control temperature and light
-Flexible break times
-Extra time off allocated for sick days or for mental wellbeing
And it’s not just the women who need support, training should be provided for management so they can be fully equipped with the skills and knowledge in order to recognise and accommodate women who need support, as well as others who may be indirectly affected. Let’s teach our leaders the soft skills to approach this sensitive subject and also familiarise them with policy procedures, so that there is an accepting and supportive culture around menopause in the workplace.