The Invisible Struggle: How Menopause Affects People in the Workplace

Menopause is a natural process that every woman goes through as she reaches middle age, but can also be experienced by transgender men and non-binary people. While the physical changes that occur during menopause are mostly well known, the emotional and psychological effects are often overlooked, especially in the workplace.

Menopause can cause a range of symptoms that affect employees’ productivity and well-being at work. This article explores the invisible struggle that menopausal employees face in the workplace and aims to provide practical advice for employers to support their employees through this transition.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs in women, as well as some transgender men and non-binary people when they reach middle age, typically between the ages of 45 and 55. It is marked by a decrease in the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. As a result, people in menopause experience physical changes such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Menopause also affects people emotionally and psychologically, causing mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

The precise timing and symptoms of menopause are unique to each individual, and it can happen early due to certain surgeries or cancer treatments, often making the symptoms even more severe. However, menopause doesn’t have to mean putting your life on hold – maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking professional support can help, but a lot of it often boils down to how well people with menopause are supported in their workplace.

Employees undergoing menopause who experience discrimination, or any other type of struggle at the workplace because of their condition, can take advantage of an employment law advisory service to seek damages.

Menopause and the Workplace

Menopause can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives, especially when it comes to their career. According to a study performed by the NHS, as much as 10% of women are forced to leave their jobs because of menopausal symptoms, and many more face reduced hours and being skipped over for promotions.

The psychological impact of menopause can be damaging. Many people feel they cannot discuss their menopause symptoms and express their need for accommodation, as they fear being looked down on and stigmatized by colleagues and supervisors. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of isolation and shame, further exacerbating the emotional and psychological effects of menopause.

The physical symptoms of menopause are a significant challenge in the workplace as well, and can potentially affect productivity and general well-being at work. Hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt sleep, leaving people with menopause tired and irritable during the day. Dryness, swelling, and general discomfort and pain also make it painful to sit for long periods.

Practical Advice for Employers

Employers can, and often do, play a critical role in supporting menopausal staff in the workplace and outside. Some requirements, like working long shifts, a lack of regular breaks, or having to wear uncomfortable clothes, can make employees’ menopause symptoms much more difficult to handle.

To support their staff properly, employers should take the following solutions to heart.

Normalize Conversation

Menopause is a natural process that affects half of the world’s population. Employers can help to reduce the stigma associated with menopause by normalizing conversation. This can be done by providing information about menopause, hosting educational workshops, and encouraging open and honest communication about menopausal symptoms.

Be open to complaints and suggestions that could help menopausal employees work in a friendlier environment. Your staff will tell you how you can help, if you only let them say it and are willing to listen.

Provide a Flexible Working Environment

Menopausal symptoms can make it difficult for employees to maintain regular working hours. Employers can support their staff by providing flexible working arrangements, such as allowing them to work part-time, offering flexible hours, and making remote work options available. This can help employees manage their symptoms and maintain their productivity and well-being at work.

Hot flashes and night sweats can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for employees, especially in a work environment. Employers can create a comfortable work environment by providing fans or air conditioning, allowing women to wear comfortable clothing, and ensuring that there is adequate airflow in the workplace.

Train Your Managers

Managers are often the first people that your employees will want to talk to about the impact of menopause on their work, and should know how to respond and react in such situations. Make sure your managers know how to approach this sensitive topic and find ways to support menopausal staff. The managers should know about the effects and symptoms of menopause, as well as how to support their staff who experience them.

It’s also important that your managers are aware of how legal regulations treat menopause in the workplace, and that not only women can experience it.

Give Your Staff Access to Helpful Amenities

To help employees struggling with physical discomfort caused by menopause, consider adjusting the facilities at your workplace to include menopause-friendly additions. This can include cold drinking water, cooling pillows, moisturizers, portable fans, handheld massagers, ergonomic office furniture, and more.

The Importance of Developing a Menopause Policy

Despite affecting half of the world’s population, menopause is often an overlooked and stigmatized topic in the workplace. Menopausal employees face a range of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms that can impact their productivity and well-being at work.

Employers play a critical role in supporting their female employees through this transition by normalizing the conversation, providing flexible working arrangements, creating a comfortable work environment, providing access to menopause-friendly products, and implementing supportive policies. By creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment for all employees, companies can maintain high productivity and improve employees’ job satisfaction.

As we continue to break the stigma and facilitate open conversations about menopause in the workplace, we can create a culture of understanding and support that empowers menopausal people to thrive in their careers and achieve their full potential.