Despite being a natural stage of a woman’s life, menopause certainly has a stigma attached to it, remaining one of those topics that tend to be avoided in discussions. Yet, with menopause typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, the vast majority of women are bound to experience this stage of life when they are still working. This begs the question, how does menopause affect women during work and is this something that should be considered by employers?
Menopause affects individual women in different ways. Some pass through the process with barely any symptoms or problems, whereas for others, menopause can dramatically impact their everyday lives, both personal and professional.
Whether you’re currently going through menopause or you feel it’s on the horizon, there are many women in a similar situation as you. Throughout the UK, women are calling for more awareness and action from workplaces, to accept this natural process and to make places of work more menopause-friendly.
Read more about a recent study carried out, looking at the current workplace landscape with menopause at the forefront of discussion. You can also find an overview of the key things employers and managers should be doing, to allow women to continue working and performing to their very best, without the menopause affecting their working life.
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What working menopausal women want - a study
Research carried out by King’s College London and the University of Nottingham, delved into the thoughts and opinions of women and what they thought would be helpful or unhelpful in a working environment during their menopause.
The study involved women in perimenopause - the transition leading up to menopause - as well as women who had already been through menopause. They were asked for their thoughts on how employers should support women at work during uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, as well as how workplace members should and should not behave towards women and menopause.
Together, their responses have formed some guidelines on how workplaces can address menopause as a topic and situation going forward. Using these guidelines to improve the workplace will allow women to continue enjoying their role within the organisation, throughout their time in menopause.
The top suggestions from working women during menopause
Here are the key requirements that were highlighted by the majority of women from the research. These suggestions can help employers and managers to make the relevant changes in the workplace, to reduce the impact of menopause on a woman’s working life as much as possible.
Understand the psychological side as well as the physical
Menopause certainly comes with its physical effects, but many individuals don’t realise how much of an impact it can have psychologically as well.
Research has found that the hidden effects of menopause are much more daunting for women than the more obvious physical effect. The likes of fatigue and sleeplessness, anxiety and worry, forgetfulness or other memory problems give women more cause for concern than hot flushes and other physical reactions.
With this in mind, it’s vital that employers and managers develop an understanding of the psychological elements of menopause and how their female members of staff might be feeling during this stage of life. Having a good knowledge of how menopause can affect women on the inside and out, will enable senior workplace members to create processes and policies aimed towards maintaining a comfortable environment to work in. In turn, these psychological symptoms are less likely to affect women during work and leave them feeling much more relaxed and happy to continue with their job.
Be respectful when discussing menopause
Employers and managers are asked to discuss the personal matter of menopause respectfully with women, listening and paying attention to their concerns during the process. These types of conversations should be carried out in private and kept confidential afterwards.
Women from the research also made reference to inappropriate behaviour that is often seen in the workplace, that can negatively affect a menopausal woman’s work experience:
- Employers or managers avoiding conversations regarding menopause
- Using disrespectful phrases to refer to menopause
- Patronising a woman due to menopausal symptoms
- Pressuring women to have these conversations with another member of staff
Consider updating workplace policies with menopause in mind
Revising workplace policies to include menopause within certain processes is something that many women suggested. For example, sickness policies and authorised absences for doctors’ appointments, should all contain reference to menopause and the symptoms it can present.
Workplace training programmes can also be considered as part of these improvements. By emphasising the appropriate way for everyone to address the topic of menopause in a working environment, women are more able to go about their daily working life without any additional worries. Workplace training could be offered for line managers and the entire team too.
Consider working with experts who specialise in handling the matter of menopause in the workplace. Working with line managers and other senior members of staff, they will be able to provide training, offer advice and educate on the best ways to improve awareness and workplace policies that bear menopause in mind.
Catering to menopausal symptoms in the physical environment
Menopause, more often than not, comes with a variety of symptoms. From hot flushes to sleepless nights, the physical symptoms associated with menopause can affect a woman’s productivity at work, all of which can be improved through simple modifications to the workspace.
Adequate ventilation and a good number of restrooms is a priority in any workplace, but some useful additions also include:
- Desk fans
- Cold drinking water
- Quality seating with the appropriate support
Each of these additions to a working environment were suggested by women from the research study, and each have the ability to make the physical workplace environment more comfortable for women in menopause.
Much of what the women suggested comes down to common sense, but it’s vital that their comments and concerns are addressed, to reduce the taboo around menopause in the workplace and for women to continue their jobs just as they have done before menopause.
If you have reached the stage in your life where menopause is just around the corner, it’s important to consider your own working environment and whether you’ll feel just as comfortable within it during the natural process that’s about to come. Don’t hesitate to talk to your line manager to understand what support is available for anyone working during menopause.
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