Managing Menopause at Work
Women are superheroes. It’s pretty incredible that we can build and maintain successful careers over many decades while navigating the physiological distractions of periods, pregnancies, and, ultimately, perimenopause and menopause. As with every other life stage, menopause brings its own set of challenges to the workplace. But unlike the other life stages, it receives little support from employers beyond a few progressive companies in the U.K. I mean, when was the last time you saw a hot flash cooling mist dispenser in the ladies’ room?
Menopause in the Workplace
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 41 million women over 40 in the workforce. Menopause-age women account for 26% of the workforce and comprise more than half of all working women. Yet a Lisa Health Survey showed that almost 50% of women report they have “little to no knowledge of menopause.”
When menopause hits, it can have a devastating impact on a woman’s career and income, as well as a negative impact on her employer. Let’s break it down. Women are most likely to hold senior leadership positions in their late 40s to mid-50s, in roles that come with a higher salary, more demands, and greater influence within the company. It’s also a time when women tend to shoulder more financial burden from various midlife events, including divorce, college tuition, increased medical costs or taking care of their parents. Enter menopause.
Menopausal Symptoms Vary From Woman to Woman
For most women, the newness and intensity of the symptoms can completely disrupt life and work resulting in the need for more time off or reducing the number of hours at work. Most women choose to suffer in silence to not jeopardize their job. Despite many advances in workplace inclusivity, ageism is still a concern for many midlife women, and there are still negative stereotypes about women who are menopausal. In many cultures, midlife women are characterized as invisible and irrelevant. Other women choose to opt out of the workforce completely. According to one report, 1 in 10 women have left their jobs because of menopause symptoms.
The costs of menopause to employers and society are staggering. Menopausal women suffering from untreated symptoms incurred higher healthcare costs, reduced workdays, and lower productivity, and diminished work performance. This translates (conservatively) into over $2.2 billion in lost productivity a year.
Managing Menopause Symptoms at Work
Before you hand in that resignation letter, know that you can and will be able to manage menopause symptoms at work. Our generation is fortunate to be going through ‘the change’ alongside many changes in society that are taking the menopause conversation mainstream. Public figures, the media, and newly launched menopause-focused companies like Midday are banding together to challenge and de-stigmatize menopause taboos. The result? More products, services, and resources than ever before to help all women more effectively navigate this life stage. While we still have a way to go, here are a few tips on how you can take control of your menopause journey at work.
Get Smart About Menopause
Knowledge is power. The first step in dealing with anything is to know what you’re dealing with. Perimenopause typically starts in your 40s, but can sometimes start earlier. This stage of the journey typically lasts 7 to 10 years but can last as long as 14. Perimenopause can also be the start of up to 34+ bothersome symptoms. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms you might experience due to the body’s normal hormonal and physiological shifts during this life stage, which include:
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
- Problems with Memory, Concentration and Brain Fog
- Fatigue and Irritability
- Anxiety, Mood Swings, and Low Self-Esteem
- Muscle Aches and Joint Pain
Depending on the symptoms you need to manage, there are a variety of solutions available to make your day-to-day work and home life more manageable. Science-backed therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, MHT (Menopausal Hormone Therapy), and more, are all viable options for managing menopause symptoms. Lifestyle and behavioral changes such as increasing exercise, following a plant-based diet, quitting smoking, and managing stress are also key. Simple strategies can be helpful too. New brands are offering products for everything from thinning hair to vaginal dryness to cooling mists and sweat-proof makeup.
Become a Meno-Champion at Work
Change starts with you. One of the best ways to start to normalize menopause in the workplace is to be an example for others. Speak up about your challenges to signal other women that it’s okay to acknowledge what you’re going through.
Rally others in the workplace to request a menopause workshop or launch and learn, and invite an expert or two to talk about the impacts of menopause at work and home.
Talk to your manager or HR representative about what you’re going through and what you need. Feeling a bit nervous about having this conversation is completely normal. Being a champion for change always involves a bit of the unknown, but when you think about it, it’s no different than employees who have previously advocated for same-sex domestic partnership benefits, mental health and wellness support, and paternity leave. Come prepared with ideas around expanding healthcare offerings for female employees beyond pregnancy and fertility, such as access to specialist care or technology-based personalized solutions like the Midday app and the Midday Work-Life Balance Program.
You can also discuss ways to make the workplace more menopause supportive. Flexible work schedules, company information sessions, proactively addressing menopause stigma whenever it arises, or yes, even cooling mist dispensers in the ladies’ room are just a start. The important thing to know is that you are not alone.
Want to learn more about managing menopause in the workplace? Visit our website and download our white paper “Eradicating the Stigma of Menopause In the Workplace” or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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