Addressing Perimenopause and Menopause at Workplace
Over the years, we are seeing an increase in working women taking high positions in the companies that employ them. But while we see pregnancy and being a mother as values integrated into the working society, perimenopause and menopause are not entirely addressed at the workplace. There are very few employers who actually acknowledge this stage in life that women are going through. And here there is a need for change because giving women a chance to be happy at work will make them better at what they do.
For all women, menopause happens differently. Some have only mild symptoms that have no impact on their health or work. Others might have hot flashes, brain fog, insomnia, mood swings, poor focus, and headaches. These can hurt women’s performance at work. Most women are not yet comfortable talking about their symptoms, which is why an employer might not even know that their employee is going through a hard time.
Dealing with Menopause at Work
Women whose symptoms are severe really think about working less. Their anxiety, hot flashes, and lack of focus do not let them optimally perform their duties. Some of the women even want to leave their jobs because of problematic hot flashes. One of the main problems is probably lack of sleep due to insomnia and hot flashes in menopause. Because of that, a woman cannot concentrate and can easily make mistakes at work.
Women in menopause also find it hard to manage their emotions at work because of the mood swings. And apart from affecting performance, this can also be a reason for bullying from colleagues. Extreme anxiety makes it impossible for women to do their jobs, especially in the beginning stages of menopause when the symptoms are more severe. Then how do we change workplace culture so that women can be comfortable at this stage of their lives?
What Can Be Done
Women at the age of menopause are at the peak of their careers, so working through their symptoms might make them feel awkward in front of others. And they would hide their struggles, so they do not appear weak. So, on the one hand, there is a need to do something about the difficulties women face. And on the other hand, there is also concern whether the help would be useful or just too much.
From the side of an employer, talking about menopause might seem awkward and uncomfortable. You also might not know enough about it to actually help. With maternity leave, the process is simple, but women in menopause do not leave work, so they need ongoing guidance and support. Policies promoting health, along with occupational safety and health, should be paid attention to. And helpful actions do not have to be anything complicated either. Getting a desk fan or giving an extra day off for a doctor’s visit would be very helpful already.
Issues with Menopause at Workplace
One 2015 study found that both physical and psycho-social factors in the workplace can influence the severity of symptoms at work. The design or temperature control at the office, or work-related stress and anxiety can affect a woman’s job. Below are some workplace triggers that could worsen your symptoms.
Because hot flashes are the most common symptoms of menopause, they are also the first symptom that comes to mind that you have to deal with at the workplace. When you have a hot flash, there is a feeling of heat that spreads through the body. Your face, chest, and neck may become red, and you might also start sweating. If you work indoors, and there is no A/C, you might be too hot making your flashes more severe. Working outdoors or wearing a tight uniform can also be a problem.
Too Much Stress
Menopause is already stressful for many women, and dealing with it at work can only make things worse. If you take on too many tasks, stay late hours, or have only a few days for sick leave or vacation, it will be hard to deal with the stress and find time to relax and unwind. Apart from that, having your symptoms at work can make you feel insecure, adding to that stress.
Too Few Breaks
Some women may have symptoms of fatigue and dizziness, and also they might need to use the bathroom more often. In this case, being at a workplace where you have very few breaks can be difficult. You can try and take hold of fatigue and dizziness by closing your eyes and relaxing for a few moments. But there are also workplaces where you do not have the chance to do so.
How to Take Control of Menopause at Workplace
Your employer must protect your health and safety, so when you are having a difficult time dealing with menopause, reach out. Communicating with them is the most effective way to overcome troubles. Speak about your needs with your co-workers and your employer and try to reach an understanding. Do not be afraid to request changes in the workplace design that would make you more comfortable. If your managers show support, this will also be good for reducing your stress levels and improving your view of work.
Outside the workplace, try to take care of your health and deal with your symptoms by living a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your diet has plenty of lean proteins, fruit and veggies, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Exercise regularly and try out practices for relaxation like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Aside from these healthy practices, you can also add probiotics to your diet, so your symptoms are easier to manage.
(3) G. Jack et al. “Menopause in the workplace: What employers should be doing.”