When I began researching menopause in the workplace, I thought, “Oh great, there will be nothing on this.” Getting women to be supported in the workplace during pregnancy and breastfeeding with adequate time off has been challenging enough, right? But, what I found was actually encouraging!
There is a lot of dialogue surrounding how menopause affects female workers in the workforce. Sure, most discussions surrounding menopause in the workplace are taking place in foreign countries, namely Britain. However, the United States eventually catches on when it comes to population health.
So, while you may have difficulty envisioning telling your boss how hot flashes, insomnia, weight gain, and sore breasts are interfering with your work life, here is a look at how to make the reality of menopause in your workplace more manageable.
Menopause in the workplace: The Numbers Are Rapidly Increasing
As humans are living longer and contributing to the workplace well-past mid-life, it comes as no surprise that women in perimenopause and post-menopause contribute to a significant portion of the workforce. Indeed, female workers in this age group carry great expertise in their field and are powerful contributors to their workplace. Recent studies have demonstrated that women with low social and workplace support are more likely to experience burnout during menopause. This is not a good outlook for employers. Losing valuable, experienced workers can be tremendously costly.
Mariella Frostrup is a journalist for the BBC who has been a strong voice in breaking down taboos surrounding menopause. In 2018, Frostrup presented the BBC documentary The Truth About…The Menopause, in which she not only educates viewers but also interviews women on how menopause affects their work life. One woman highlighted the cognitive challenges of menopause by stating: “I have to make an intelligent contribution which is going to be difficult when my brain feels like it’s been replaced by a bowl full of porridge.”
How to Manage Menopause at Work
Yes, menopause can impact our work experience, and employers and managers would be wise to accommodate the needs of their female employees. However, waiting for someone else to implement change is prolonging the taboo of menopause at work.
Consider taking these proactive steps to help you thrive during this season:
Make sure to find clarity in your role. Many women experience anxiety, stress, and frustration at work because their roles, duties, and expectations are not clear. While menopause symptoms can make this experience worse, having clear expectations is important for any worker.
It seems most people do not feel they are contributing to their highest potential unless they are completely strung out with stress. High levels of stress are not sustainable, nor are they productive. Dedicate some time to figuring out proactive ways to decrease your workplace stress and share these findings with your manager.
The workplace environment is one of the biggest issues for menopausal women. Indeed, some studies have found that menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and fatigue, lead to absenteeism from work. Identify your issues with your workplace environment and find solutions to making it a more productive space for you. If you have your own office, making changes may be more feasible. If you are in a shared space, communicate openly about your needs. For example, a personal fan or an ergonomic chair for joint support may improve your day-to-day comfort.
Consider discussing flexible hours or some hours working at home to increase your productivity. Recommend a trial with your boss to show that some flexibility can be beneficial for both of you.
Be open to discussing what you need with colleagues and managers. While it may seem daunting to present your needs when menopause is still taboo, we have to be change agents in our own lives and for our collective good. LIkely, there may be another woman struggling with the same symptoms.
If the thought of talking to your boss about menopause is daunting, we are with you. It is scary as hell to reveal vulnerability and can make you concerned about your job security if you shed light on how menopause may be impacting your quality of work. However, it is important to remember that you hold a key role in your place of work, and your quality of life is of utmost importance.
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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.