This article dives into how to tackle your symptoms at work and communicate your needs to your manager.
Dealing with menopause alongside your job
As open as some of us may have become about our bodies, our health and our relationships, the menopause can still come as something of a shock for many women.
It just isn’t something we’re routinely prepared for, by our mothers, our teachers, or even our friends. And because it can affect us all in different ways, over a slightly different span of years, we don’t always share exactly the same experience, which means it can be pretty isolating.
While most women’s menopause occurs somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55, lasting an average of four years, for some it can come much earlier and last a lot longer. Besides erratic periods, the list of possible symptoms is endless, from anxiety and depression to weight gain and itchy skin, hot flushes and night sweats to poor concentration, memory loss and low energy.
Research by the CIPD1, led by YouGov, showed that nearly two-thirds of women experiencing menopause symptoms said they were less able to concentrate than before; 58% said they experienced more stress and more than half said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
Unsurprisingly, many don’t feel comfortable discussing their symptoms in the workplace. They often worry that colleagues, or even their manager, will think they can’t do their job anymore, that they’ve lost their edge, they’re unreliable or they’re no longer focussed. Nearly a third of those surveyed had taken sick leave due to their symptoms, and only 32% said they felt supported by their managers.1
But trying to hide what they’re going through just makes it worse, which is why we’re encouraging women to be open about the workplace challenges the menopause presents. It’s important for employers looking to retain the vast experience and skills women bring to the workforce to reach out and offer their support, to work with their female employees and find practical solutions that will give them the confidence they need to continue in their roles.
So that women feel comfortable asking for the help they need, it’s vital we’re able to normalise the conversation about it. For workplaces that aren’t quite there yet, women employees could:
Ask for a meeting with their line manager to explain what symptoms they're experiencing and how they’re affecting them at work.
Make practical suggestions about what could help, such as ways to keep cool to manage hot flushes, being able to take a quiet break if things are getting on top of them, or asking for extra time to complete a task if they’re struggling to concentrate that day.
Ask if their organisation has a menopause policy in place and see what can be done to encourage more awareness of what’s available.
Join or start a support group. This can be as simple as getting together with colleagues for a walk after work or a lunchtime chat to share experiences and suggestions.
By increasing awareness and bringing menopause out into the open, we can help pave the way for a working environment that embraces, values and supports women at every stage of their lives.
Want to know more about the menopause?
Watch our panel discussion about how to support women in the workplace.
Menopause and heart health: A guide to eating well in menopause
The perimenopausal and menopausal years can be difficult for many women and can present various health challenges, but positive changes to diet and lifestyle can help you to manage some of your symptoms and promote long-term health.
When going through menopause many women experience noticeable symptoms which impact their lives, however, there are some silent symptoms which aren’t as easy to spot. The amount of oestrogen your body produces decreases during menopause, and this increases the risk to your bone health if left unchecked.
This is an introduction to menopause. It explains what menopause is and some of the more common symptoms women experience. Most importantly there are practical tips on how you can support the menopausal women in your life.