The biggest workplace menopause challenges and how to tackle them

Menopausal women are the fastest-growing workforce demographic, with almost half of existing UK workers expected to experience menopause during their working lives.

The biggest workplace menopause challenges and how to tackle them

So, it’s a worrying thought that 16% of individuals go through menopause completely alone, without speaking to anyone. These conversations are even less likely to take place in the workplace, with many people worrying they’ll be embarrassed or stigmatised.

Working during menopause can make a difficult time more stressful. So, it’s important to understand common menopause challenges in the workplace and how we can tackle them...

Working during menopause

Around half of women take time off work due to menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms.

For some women, menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms can make it impossible to complete daily tasks. However, many don’t feel comfortable asking for sick leave to help them rest and recover. In fact, half of women who take time off work due to menopause don’t tell their line manager the real reason for their absence.

Those who need to take time away from work should be open with their employers. Employees should be encouraged to talk to their employer at the earliest opportunity to explain their symptoms and how they’re impacting their ability to work.

Keeping in contact with your employees while they’re away from the normal workplace not only relieves some of the stress associated with ‘sick leave guilt’, but also helps with easing back into the workplace when they feel ready.

Workplace flexibility

Nearly one million women have left their job due to menopausal symptoms, with 1 in 4 considering quitting.

Not only can daily commutes and loud, busy offices add to feelings of discomfort and stress but, sometimes, those going through menopause find it easier to be at home, where they have easier access to toilet or changing facilities and can make themselves more comfortable.

If your workplace doesn’t offer remote working opportunities, encourage your employees to speak to their line manager about how to make this a reality. Suggesting ways to stay in touch on remote working days – like video catch-up calls – can help with encouraging buy-in.

However, flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home. Everyone has the right to ask for reasonable adjustments to make the workplace more comfortable.

For many women, going to work can exacerbate symptoms like fatigue, headaches and hot flushes, thanks to stuffy offices, crowded seating arrangements and uncomfortable uniforms. Encourage conversations with line managers about how these are affecting the employee’s wellbeing. Offering reasonable alternatives or adjustments is a productive way of encouraging change, too – for example, sitting further from radiators or air-conditioners, having regular breaks and access to cold drinking water throughout the day.

Menopause and performance

Almost half of women find menopausal symptoms hard to manage.

Around eight in 10 women will experience noticeable symptoms during menopause, including hot flushes, poor sleep, erratic periods and urinary tract infections. And when these are thrown into the mix of work stresses, they can become incredibly difficult to manage, with those who try to work through the symptoms often making themselves more unwell.

Consider some workplace adjustments that may help them manage their symptoms. This may include starting the working day later, so they can spend some extra time resting after a disrupted night’s sleep. Daily catchups with their line manager can help to organise tasks and ease the stress of looming deadlines.

Talking about menopause

Around 4 in 10 women who have gone through menopause felt unable to talk about it work, especially with managers.

Women often feel the need to act strong and confident in the workplace, even when they’re struggling. However, speaking about menopause is powerful in normalising the topic and breaking the stigma.

Menopause is a normal and common part of working life, nearly 8 out of 10 menopausal women are currently in work. So, these conversations should be welcomed and expected by everyone, not just menopausal or perimenopausal women.   

Starting with a single discreet conversation between the individual and their line manager, explaining their symptoms and how they’re affecting their work. For example, forgetfulness is a common symptom of menopause and may explain why a recent deadline was missed or why the individual was lacking in confidence during a presentation.

The sooner we make these conversations a normal part of the workplace, the sooner we can ‘change the taboo around the change’ and support everyone within the workplace to thrive and reach their full potential.

We recently held a panel discussion with clinical and industry experts looking at ‘How to create a menopause friendly workplace’. The session looked at practical ways organisations can create and maintain a menopause friendly workplace – including strategies to support individuals experiencing menopause transition and best practice from ‘menopause friendly’ organisations that have improved employee wellbeing, productivity, engagement and retention.

We are committed to providing voices and resources to help ‘change the taboo around the change’. Register your interest in future panel discussions on this topic.

The author is Gosia Bowling, national lead for emotional wellbeing at Nuffield Health.

This article is provided by Nuffield Health.

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