Are you aware of the extent to which menopause impacts wellbeing at work?
In 2019, over 330,000 women were working in Ireland between the ages of 45 and 59, the majority of which will experience symptoms leading up to menopause (1). So, in the workplace it’s possible that you are working alongside a woman with these symptoms. How aware are you of what they may be experiencing?
Approx. 75% of women will experience symptoms during menopause, which can affect both their home and work lives!
The experiences of menopause can vary significantly from woman to woman, as can the severity of symptoms. Some may only experience symptoms for a few months, while others may suffer for years. Physical symptoms like hot flushes, a change in periods, joint pains and headaches all have an impact on a woman’s ability to work effectively. However, it’s the psychological symptoms like low mood, fatigue and poor concentration that take a significant toll, affecting productivity and how mentally engage they feel at work (2).
Negative impact of menopause symptoms!
The challenge for many women is dealing with the detrimental impacts of menopausal symptoms. Many are aware that menopause can be disruptive and have a negative impact on a woman’s quality of life. However, the extent to which the menopause impacts wellbeing for those women at work is largely not understood.
The culture within most workplaces is of not talking about the menopause, this means that many women won’t feel comfortable discussing their symptoms with their manager or colleagues. This also signifies that they don’t feel they can ask for help in addressing their symptoms.
In a recent Irish survey, 77% of women surveyed had moderate to severe menopause symptoms. The impact of these symptoms was such that 22% had missed 3 or more days off work and this was compounded further as 85% felt they could not tell their employer the real reason for the time off (3).
Research shows that the impact of menopausal symptoms can mean that menopausal women:
- feel less engaged at work,
- have a lower level of commitment,
- feel less satisfied,
- have a greater intention to quit their job altogether the more bothersome their symptoms are.
Irish data shows that 43% of women have considered giving up work because of their symptoms (3).
What can employers do?
Many women feel that menopause is still a taboo subject in the workplace and that the attitudes can range from empathetic and understanding, to insensitive, flippant and a complete lack of sympathy for employees who are experiencing this normal life event! It’s not surprising then that in the 2021 Irish survey, 96% of respondents would like menopause awareness training for managers & HR in their workplace and 93% would like to see menopause in the workplace policy introduced at work (3). It’s important for employers to be aware of how menopause and its symptoms can affect employees. This awareness is essential to create a positive open environment to help prevent employees from:
- losing confidence in their skills and abilities,
- feeling like they need to take time off work and hide the reasons for it,
- having increased mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression,
- leaving their job.
There is a range of advice available to organisations on how to put support in place. The British Menopause Society has outlined a number of recommendations, these include (4):
Availability of information about menopause including the symptoms and experiences that women experience. As well as the difficulties at work, coping strategies, and an acknowledgement that women may not feel comfortable disclosing their menopause, particularly to a male and/or younger line manager.
- Raise awareness about menopause with all staff especially line managers, who have responsibilities for the health and wellbeing of their team at work. So that a culture is created that overcomes the taboo that menopause can be.
- Advice on how to have a conversation in an appropriate and sensitive manner. Acknowledging that there is no one-size fits all approach.
- Putting in place a menopause policy that are accommodating for women going through the menopause allowing for work adjustments like flexible working, sickness absence procedures that allow women time off if needed for health appointments.
- Availability of support, clearly outlining who and where women or line managers can go to, when they need some additional help and advice. Changes to the physical environment might be required to help cope with symptoms e.g., desk fans or ability to move their work station to a window that can be opened, or closer to the toilet?
As someone going through menopause what can you do?
Indeed, if you are experience menopause symptoms there are actions that you can take to support you through this time. The advice below was outlined by Dr Louise Newson, a GP and menopause specialist (2):
- Seek advice on treatment and lifestyle changes – talk to a health care professional so that with evidence-based information you can get treatment and make changes dietary and lifestyle changes to help reduce the symptoms.
- Start the conversation – menopause is a very personal experience but talking about it could help you secure the support you need. This can include talking to friends, line managers and work colleagues.
- Consider flexible working – speak to your manager about a way of working that suits your needs for now.
- Reduce triggers at work – caffeine and spicy foods can trigger hot flushes, so best to avoid them at work, especially before a meeting or presentation
- Use technology to your advantage – If memory lapses or poor concentration are an issue, use reminders and to-do lists on your phone, keep a note of important dates and make meeting notes to serve as a prompt for when you next need it.
“25% of employers said it is “very likely that they would introduce menopause specific supports in the next 1-2 years” ”(3)
While menopause is a natural stage of life which affects most women, it’s only recently that it is becoming a topic in the workplace. It’s important that employers raise its awareness among employees and provide assurance that they will handle menopause in the workplace sensitively, and with dignity and respect. Thereby allowing those impacted to continue to fulfil their roles confidently and effectively.
- Cso.ie. 2022. Work – CSO – Central Statistics Office. [online] Available at:<https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p- wamii/womenandmeninireland2019/work/>
- 2020. Newson Health: Menopause and the Workplace. [ebook] London: Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre. Available at:
- Menopause Hub. 2021. Menopause Hub Employee Survey. [online] Available at<https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ba0d75350a54f370826d13c/t/6206742940ba3a791fb 5a53d/1644590124120/Infographic_01%2BDec.png>
- 2022. Menopause and the workplace guidance: what to consider. [online] British Menopause Society. Available at: https://thebms.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/07-BMS-TfC-Menopause-and-the-workplace-03B.pdf.
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