It's time to start talking about menopause at work
A staggering 1 in 10 women leave work because of menopause symptoms, yet the subject is still rarely discussed in the workplace.
In this blog, we explore the struggles and challenges that those going through menopause face at work, look at how menopause can impact wellbeing and highlight what employers can do to offer support.
World Menopause Day 2023
Held on 18th October every year, World Menopause Day is a day to raise awareness about the menopause experience and tackle the stigma associated with it.
Menopause is a natural process, but it can also bring physical and emotional changes that can be hard to talk about and difficult to cope with.
Many people are not educated on menopause and only become aware of it when they or someone close to them starts to notice its effects, which can be distressing, alarming and daunting.
World Menopause Day provides a platform for people to discuss these issues openly and without judgment and offers an opportunity to highlight treatment, lifestyle changes and support resources to help the menopausal transition.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but can happen earlier or later.
During menopause, a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and her body produces less of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which can result in a variety of physical and mental symptoms.
Perimenopause is when symptoms of menopause are present but periods have yet not stopped. Symptoms can go on for months or years, and menopause is reached once periods have been absent for 12 months.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Symptoms of menopause can have a huge impact on a person’s daily life, including their relationships, social life, family life and work.
Around 8 in every 10 women will experience noticeable symptoms, and 45% will find their symptoms hard to deal with.
Common physical symptoms of menopause and perimenopause include:
- A change in period patterns (first sign of perimenopause)
- Hot flashes: feelings of hot or cold in your face, neck and chest which can make you dizzy
- Difficulty sleeping, which may be the result of night sweats and make you feel tired and irritable during the day
- Palpitations: when your heartbeats suddenly become more noticeable and your heart feels like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Changed body shape and weight gain
- Skin changes, including dry and itchy skin
- Reduced sex drive
- Vaginal dryness and pain, itching, or discomfort during sex
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Common mental symptoms of menopause and perimenopause include:
- Changes to your mood, such as low mood, anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem
- Problems with memory or concentration (brain fog).
On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from when a woman’s periods end; however, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.
What are the effects of menopause in the workplace?
Perimenopause and menopause can be a particularly difficult and stressful period, with 76% of women finding their menopausal symptoms either moderately or extremely problematic at work.
Here are the main effects that menopause has in the workplace:
Thirty-one per cent of women take time off work for menopausal symptoms, and 19% of women are absent for more than 8 weeks.
With menopausal women often being in their prime professionally, the repercussions of their absence from the workplace are even more profound, with research suggesting that perimenopause and menopause are costing UK businesses 14 million working days per year.
Perimenopause and menopausal symptoms can make employees more fatigued and susceptible to stress, with reduced cognitive functioning and brain fog making it harder for them to concentrate on complex tasks or process information quickly. This ultimately impacts workplace performance and productivity.
In fact, £1.88 billion in productivity is lost each year due to menopause symptoms.
Increased employee isolation and stress
Seventy-three per cent of women feel unsupported whilst experiencing menopause at work, and 44% of women who take sickness absence due to menopause do not tell their manager the real reason for their absence. The lack of support offered increases feelings of stress and isolation during an already challenging time.
Increased early retirement
Research has found that 1 in 10 women leave work because of menopause symptoms, and 1 in 4 are considering leaving. The most common reasons are added pressure (42%); a failure to receive the flexible working they need to manage their symptoms (39%); and a lack of understanding from management of what they are experiencing (39%). This adds pressure onto organisations to recruit and increases stretched staffing in the meantime.
Increased recruitment costs
The cost of recruitment to replace an employee who leaves the business is more than £25,000 for a person earning £30,000 a year, including direct recruitment costs and the costs associated with bringing a new member of the team up to speed. This could easily be avoided if there was more support and understanding around menopause in the workplace.
The lack of support for women going through menopause at work is a concerning issue, and it is evident that much more needs to be done.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that organisations can help menopausal employees thrive in the workplace and in turn boost employee wellbeing, productivity and business efficiency.
How can organisations support menopause in the workplace?
Implement a menopause at work policy
A policy on menopause in the workplace can promote understanding, diminish any negative connotations and provide guidance for companies on how to support their employees through this transition. It can also help with the sensitive management of targets and deadlines and act as a support tool for managers who may find the topic difficult to approach.
Educate staff on the symptoms of menopause and their impact on wellbeing
It is vital that employers educate managers and staff on the symptoms of menopause and the impact these can have on a person’s wellbeing and ensure everyone is supportive and sensitive to any changes in an employee’s behaviour.
Hosting awareness sessions and training on menopause in the workplace is a great way to equip your team with the tools and confidence to effectively support menopausal employees.
Create an open and supportive environment
People going through the menopause may feel uncomfortable discussing their symptoms with managers or colleagues, leading to feelings of isolation and lack of support. Creating an open and supportive environment helps ensure employees feel supported and remain productive and engaged in the workplace. Providing awareness sessions, team meetings or a workplace buddy are great ways to achieve this. Additionally, introducing regular 1:1 check-ins with managers will also provide an opportunity for employees to discuss any personal issues or additional support they might need.
Provide flexible working and workplace adjustments
Providing flexible working arrangements, such as allowing employees to work from home or in an alternative location, flexible start and end times, regular breaks and reduced workloads or modified job roles, will help accommodate fluctuating energy levels.
In addition, providing employees with access to quiet spaces can help them focus and decrease feelings of overwhelm, while relaxing strict uniform or dress codes can help them feel more comfortable during the day.
Provide adequate air conditioning
Hot flashes can reduce productivity by 60%. Ensuring your workplace has sufficient air conditioning, ceiling fans and ventilation can help provide the right level of cooling and comfort for employees who are dealing with hot flashes and in turn help improve their wellbeing and productivity.
Encourage extra breaks and physical activity
Encouraging extra breaks for rest or physical activity during the workday can be a great way to help employees manage or reduce menopausal symptoms. Consider providing a space for yoga or meditation sessions, encouraging short walks or exercise sessions during breaks or after work, or arranging walking meetings.
Get expert guidance on menopause at work with Medigold Health
If you are passionate about helping the women in your workplace thrive, Medigold Health offers a comprehensive training course designed to equip your managers with the knowledge, skills and confidence you need to provide the right support and workplace adjustments to employees experiencing menopause.
To find out more, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and start your journey to a better wellbeing today!
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