Menopause And The Workplace

There was a time when women were solely in charge of the household. It was the woman’s job to make sure everything around the house was taken care of, while the man of the house was supposed to look after the financial matters and provide for his family. Circumstances have changed in today’s day and age. Both men and women are breadwinners of the family and both have equal responsibilities to take care of.

Leaving their home and venturing out into the man’s world has its own ups and downs. In the beginning women were supposed to fit into the world built exclusively for men and not complain about it. If they did ask for their needs to be met, they were seen as weak and undeserving of their position at work. Slowly things changed. Women started demanding that their needs were considered in the workplace.

The 20th century witnessed a number of changes in rules like inclusion of maternity leave and healthcare as well. While we might take it for granted, there have been people who have fought for us to have these rights. Progress has definitely been made in the last few decades to make sure women are more comfortable in the workplace. However, there are certain aspects of a woman’s life that are still considered taboo. Menopause is one of them.

Women experience menopause around the age of 45 to 60. There is a possibility of getting menopause early or prematurely before the age of 40 as well. Most of the world is woefully ignorant about what menopause is. Even women know it merely as the time when the periods finally stop. In reality, menopause comes with a number of symptoms that can affect your ability to do everyday things. This includes the work that you might have excelled at in your office but now you might find that your menopause symptoms act as barriers to hamper your ability to perform as smoothly.

The fact remains that menopause affects some women worse than others. Some barely notice a single menopause symptom, while others find themselves feeling every bump in the menopausal road. In short, it is a huge curveball in your life and it needs to be taken into consideration in the workplace as well.

It is also important not to view menopause as an abnormality, but just an evolution from one phase of life to another. It is as natural as puberty or pregnancy. It is important to openly talk about it so that the issues women face can be known and helped to deal with. This will help both the employees and the employer perform better and create a better work culture.

Being A Menopausal woman in the workplace

The Office of National Statistics has put forth data that shows menopausal women are demographically the fastest growing workforce in the U.K. The results also prove that while the average of women going through menopause is 51, menopause can start earlier due to natural reasons or maybe caused by surgery or some form of ailment. While menopause itself starts usually in your 50s, you can experience menopause symptoms during perimenopause as well. Perimenopause is known to start years before menopause rolls in. So technically you can be experiencing menopause symptoms for as long as a decade before menopause officially enters your life.

Research conducted by the faculty of occupational medicine discovered that almost 8 out of 10 women were still employed and had to go through a regular workday. 3 out of 4 women have to endure menopause symptoms of varying intensity and every 1 in 4 could have to go through serious menopause symptoms. The prediction anticipates 1 in 3 of the employees will soon be over 50 with the retirement age now gone up to 68.

A huge chunk of the workplace now consists of menopausal women. There is a fall in the number of young people joining the workforce, leading to the older population shouldering the workload.

This has resulted in there being a growing need to take into consideration the needs of workers of this demographic in order to keep them satisfied and providing an environment that helps maximise their output. Work is helpful for the wellbeing of menopausal women. It helps maintain a sense of normality and control in their lives, menopause symptoms seem to have taken over a number of parts of their lives. Working and being productive can help a woman not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. However, it can backfire if the conditions in the workplace are not conducive like excessive stress or high temperatures.

How menopause Can interfere with your work life?

Menopause opens the doors for a number of menopause symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, anxiety, lack of focus, and a fall in confidence. Menopause is similar to your periods stopping, which might lead you to assume that you have more control of your body and one less thing to worry about. This obviously could not be farther from the truth.

The majority of women do not approach their line managers to discuss the problems they might be facing due to menopause, while almost half of all menopausal women do not consult their GP to get help dealing with any symptoms they might be suffering from. The root of this might be in the fact that menopause is sometimes seen in a negative light.

Most of the time the symptoms experienced might be hard to identify as being caused by menopause, leading women to assume that it is some kind of shortcoming on their part. Women are further made to feel inadequate if they cannot just roll with their menopause symptoms while still being able to perform at peak levels.

 On the other hand, when women are helped to recognise, accept, and manage their symptoms of menopause, it is easier for them to go back to living their normal lives. Unfortunately help is not always available, or sought by menopausal women which can result in them choosing to stop working. This is not healthy for the employees or for the workplace.

So how can employers help?

It is important that all line managers, regardless of their position, are educated about menopause. They should all be able to spot menopause symptoms that women might be going through and the ways it can hamper their ability to perform. Additionally, understanding any adjustments that have to be made and support that women need while going through menopause can help immensely.

Menopause should also be included in the health awareness campaign so that not only management, but coworkers can also understand and help promote a healthier work environment by being supportive of one another. It also opens up a dialogue to help expel the embarrassment that women might feel to admit and discuss their situation. There should also be resources available that can provide proper help to maneuver the labyrinth of physical menopause symptoms, as well as deal with the mental and emotional symptoms of menopause.

There should be multiple options available for women to seek help. It can be hard for women to go to their immediate authority with their menopausal problems, especially if it is a man. Hence, there should be proper instructions provided to women about alternate ways to find help in the workplace. Human resources can be of assistance in this scenario. Employee assistance programs can also provide the help menopausal women might need.

Sick leaves should also include menopause symptoms as some of the symptoms might be serious enough to need a leave of absence. In such cases women should not be made to feel ashamed, embarrassed or guilty. It should just be considered a health condition and be given the required time to get better. The workplace should also have parameters in place that allow menopausal women to leave work in the middle of the day if need be. Menopause symptoms might cause excessive trips to the washroom, which should be taken into consideration by the employers. They might also need more breaks during the day, which should be discussed by the management and work it out with the employee to help manage their symptoms.

Maintaining a proper temperature and good ventilation, along with other facilities like access to cold water to combat a hot flush, might help make the workplace a more comfortable environment to work in all day for menopausal women. Menopause might make women feel isolated in their suffering. Menopause symptoms can also cause a lot of physical, mental and emotional distress which can throw a wrench in their ability to perform the same tasks that they might have all their lives. So it is of paramount importance that they feel heard, supported and understood by their colleagues and employers, the people they spend 8-9 hours with. This helps optimise the performance which is satisfactory for both the employee and the employer.