Do you know about perimenopause and the menopause? You are already one step ahead!
For many people, myself included, asking for help is one of the biggest challenges in life. Doing so at work, risking to look more human and less perfect or professional, or even drawing attention to your needs, can be utterly terrifying. If you’re one of the fortunate women who is actually aware that you are going through perimenopause or menopause and you are finding your usual working environment or schedule are making your symptoms worse, it is time to talk to your employer. This blog post will provide you with a few tips, tried and tested by employees and employers alike to tackle the menopause in the workplace!
Menopause awareness & symptoms
First of all, let me recap that you are extremely lucky to have the awareness to pinpoint your symptoms down to the perimenopause or menopause and that you are in a shocking minority. In a way, you’re halfway there to feeling better in your own skin and at work. The good news is that through lifestyle changes and/or hormone replacement therapy, you could get your old self back in a short time!
For those of you who are not completely sure whether your symptoms are stemming from hormonal changes, let’s spend a short time listing some of the most common symptoms. Mental health symptoms include depression, anxiety and mood swings. These are often dismissed by doctors with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, without investigating their origin. These medications do not work against hormone induced symptoms and women don’t end up getting the right help.
Physical symptoms include fatigue, hot flushes, heart palpitations, migraines, itchiness, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, difficulty sleeping, joint pain and brain fog. And many more! These on their own are pretty major symptoms. Although not every woman experiences all symptoms (some do not have any at all!) or don’t experience them all at the same time, it is of vital importance that they are aware of them so they can spot them and ask for the right treatment before their lives are drastically impacted.
Fatigue, brain fog and migraines in particular affect any job, both physically demanding and screen based, and can destroy the confidence of women experiencing them. Usually there is an element of shame attached to menopausal symptoms. As menopausal women are often dismissed by medical professionals, pinpointing their symptoms down to stress, they are often discouraged to seek help in other settings, including the workplace. And of course you have the common vasomotor symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats, as well as losing hair and brittle nails.
Menopause in the workplace
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms outlined above, or more that you can track on the free app Balance (I am not affiliated by them, but it is a wonderful tool!), then this is likely to impact your work. What I hear most often is that women have lost their charisma, their energy and their enthusiasm. Also that they have become more forgetful and overwhelmed, plus their tolerance for stress has reduced.
If you are experiencing vasomotor symptoms, like hot flushes, and your job requires you to wear specific uniforms for example, this can make working absolutely unbearable. It may also cause a lot of shame if dealing with customers face to face. Hot flushes feel like the whole upper body is heating up from its core and they are certainly hard to hide.
Overall, women of perimenopausal or menopausal age are indeed less likely to pursue a promotion. Often they consider reducing their hours or even retiring early! This makes menopause in the workplace a societal problem that needs to be tackled by employers as well.
Top tips for speaking to your employer about menopause
If women going through the perimenopause or menopause end up underperforming, taking a lot of sick leave or even retiring early, employers themselves are going to be negatively impacted too. This often means less productive and understaffed teams. Along with even more frequent recruiting which is time consuming and often very expensive. Not to mention changing dynamics between staff and management possibly causing frictions and slowing down the work.
Hopefully this convinces you that when you are negatively impacted by the perimenopause or menopause, this is also your employer’s problem. So what can you do?
1. Set up a meeting
First of all, reach out to HR. If you work for a small organisation without a proper HR department, you can reach out to your line manager instead. Outlining the reason in writing is usually easier and will force the reader to come to the meeting prepared. I suggest emailing them with a simple message asking to discuss potential arrangements as you are going through the perimenopause or menopause and wish for this not to negatively impact your work.
2. Ask them what support is in place
The past few years have seen a rise in awareness about the menopause in the public eye, including it as part of diversity and inclusion trainings for employers to avoid discrimination in the workplace. Employers are getting educated on the effects of the perimenopause and menopause in the workplace and there are plenty of resources available to those who wish to stay up to date and support their staff.
There are free resources available online, as well as workshops for employers and staff – I run workshops myself – and these can be a wonderful tool for all staff to be educated on such an important topic.
When you ask for help, you should be pointed to useful resources and your HR department or line manager should be able to direct you to sites like Balance App, or The Menopause Charity, and also be able to offer reasonable adjustments for you. Sometimes there may be a peer support scheme or a monthly Menopause café where employees from different departments join on a regular basis and offer each other insight and support.
3. Menopause and workplace adjustments
What to do if your employer doesn’t have a clue? I hope this is not the case, but if HR or your line manager are unable to offer any support, then you can point them to Menopause Awareness workshops and training available to employers to better support you. I offer training and workshops for all organisation sizes. Do not hesitate to message me on Bloss for advice! While this happens however, you can start asking for some reasonable adjustments to be implemented.
4. Make suggestions
A few of the suggestions you can make are:
- Ventilation & temperature arrangements. For example, having your desk moved closer to the air con system or window, or your employer providing an alternative uniform/attire if hot flushes are an issue and your job requires you to wear a uniform which is uncomfortable.
- Flexible working patterns or working from home. Your employer has to consider your request for flexible work and see if your proposed adjustments can be implemented. Sometimes working from home or having a flexible schedule can make attending GP appointments and dealing with fatigue and symptoms more manageable, as you start treatment or implement your lifestyle changes.
- Ask your employer for benefits. Your employer can start providing healthier options at the canteen or subsidise any gym or wellbeing membership programmes to employees. Yoga and meditation, as well as exercise and healthy diet, can seem small adjustments but are often extremely impactful on our bodies when going through hormonal changes. Employers offering their staff discounted yoga classes or healthier eating options can be a wonderful way to start implementing those changes and making them lasting routines.
- Ask your employer to create a supportive space. Encourage them to circulate information among all staff to educate the whole workforce to be more mindful of staff going through hormonal changes, especially the perimenopause and menopause. A wonderful idea for employers – which is also extremely easy to implement – is to set up a menopause café or circle for staff to find support within their community. If you feel comfortable, you can even start the café yourself!
If you are currently struggling with the perimenopause or menopause, I hope this gives you the confidence to reach out to your employer knowing that you are making the right move for yourself and for them. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments!
Seek further help if needed
Going through the perimenopause or menopause while pursuing a career can be extremely daunting. If your mental or physical health start deteriorating, make sure to speak to your GP and let your employer know. Ultimately your employer wants you to feel healthy and happy so that your work is not negatively impacted and your career can thrive. If your employers don’t have the tools to help you when you ask, you can be the change you want to see in the environment, offering them an opportunity to step up their inclusion game and join the employers who are now seeking to support menopausal women.
Lastly remember that despite the perimenopause being most common in your forties, the menopause can happen at any age and premature ovarian insufficiency (or premature menopause) happens to one in 100 women under the age of 40. For more information, check out the Daisy Network – a charity supporting women with POI.
Want to do more for your employees? Discover my workshop on supporting menopause in the workplace.
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