Menopause at work
More recently, menopause is being increasingly recognised as an important topic that needs to be addressed in the workplace. From hot flushes, to brain fog, to the impact of insomnia – it can have a real impact on employees and symptoms can result in a significant impact on work attendance and performance. Increasing numbers of employers’ health and wellbeing policies now include the menopause. Channel 4 launched their dedicated policy on World Menopause Day and made various headlines for being one of the first to take this step. With over 4.3 million employed women in the UK aged 45-60, it stands to reason that these policies are long overdue.
Wellbeing in the workplace has become a hot topic of conversation. We are slowly but surely starting to normalise conversations around issues such as mental health. With the menopause being an inevitable stage of life, women should feel comfortable discussing their symptoms and the best ways to support them during this time, as they would any other issue.
Currently, many women are reluctant to talk about the menopause. It is a personal topic and sometimes there is an unnecessary degree of embarrassment. It’s as if we forget that it is a natural thing to happen. Women can also be unwilling to disclose or talk about the menopause in case it is seen as a weakness that threatens their professional demeanour. Male managers, and younger managers are amongst the people that women find most uncomfortable approaching to discuss how the menopause is affecting their work life.
Depending on your seniority, or the amount of control you have over your work environment, it may be quite easy to make slight modifications that facilitate your work day. However, not all women are in this position and you many find that you need to consult someone else. These discussions are best to have with the people you work closely with, such as line managers. Remember, your managers can support you a lot more if they are aware of the issues you are facing. Some companies offer alternative line manager access if you prefer to speak with someone other than your immediate manager.
These conversations are not always easy to have. Many women don’t know where to begin.
The first thing to know is that there will be a process in place to support you. You may even have a ‘menopause champion’ in your workplace. Whilst it is important for all managers to be trained and appropriately skilled in order to have these discussions, if you find that you are not comfortable with one manager, speak to a different manager or your HR department. Talking about it is the only way to break down the stigma
Be open and honest during the conversation. Identify what is, or could potentially be hindering your performance at work. More often than not, your managers will work with you to find solutions. Often, you already will know what solutions will help and just need support. A happy you is a more productive you.
Certain menopause symptoms do impact your day to day more than others. Considering the majority of us spend 6 - 9 hours at work, this is a large portion of your day. Here are some recommendations and tips for managing symptoms at work, particularly hot flushes, tiredness and poor memory.
Hot flushes can happen suddenly and without warning. Unfortunately, you can’t really hit snooze on them, or reschedule for a more convenient time. Flushes can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety, so work in ways that reduce this.
- Don’t rush: Give yourself plenty of time to get to meetings.
- Set mini deadlines: Ahead of any hard deadline. It helps to avoid any last minute frantic stressing to complete a task.
- Hydrate: Hydration is always key. Drink plenty of water to keep cool.
- Adapt uniform/work wear: Wear loose layers or light cotton where possible.
Insomnia and night flushes may be affecting the quality of your sleep, so it’s no surprise if you find yourself feeling tired and struggling to focus during the day. This can affect your ability to work effectively. You may be worried about forgetting tasks or missing deadlines and start to feel less confident in your work performance. The following may help you with this.
- Write a to do list: Add any tasks to it throughout the day. This way you won’t forget them. Tick off tasks as you work through the list.
- Break down large tasks: Most big tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks. Identify exactly what you need to do at each stage. The key thing is to not overwhelm yourself.
- Take breaks: Sometimes a short walk and some fresh air is what you need to refresh and wake your brain up a little bit. You’ll return with better focus.
It may help to reassure your colleagues that, although your ways of working are changing, your work will still be as good as ever. If your symptoms are still impacting your ability to work, seek advice from your manager or HR department.
Peppy.Health are a health care start-up who connect women to trustworthy, fully qualified, fully insured and fully vetted menopause practitioners, paid for by their employer. They believe that every woman should be able to access the support they need during the menopause and work to link working women with menopause practitioners for one to one advice.
Kathy is the Director of Menopause Services at Peppy.Health. She strongly believes that talking about the menopause, sharing your experiences and supporting each other will always make things easier. The #ExpressYourFemal campaign embodies this and encourages women to express themselves and talk about the topic. Re-invent or rediscover yourself, the menopause doesn’t define you.
As always, do not put up with any symptoms without understanding them. If you need to, seek help from a medical professional who can provide further advice and put your mind at ease if you are ever unsure about anything.
For more information about Kathy Abernethy and the specialist work she is involved in, visit www.kathyabernethy.com or purchase her book ‘Menopause: The One Stop Guide’. For more about how Peppy can help employees visit www.peppy.health.
 NHS Employers (2019). Menopause and the workplace. [Accessed 4th December 2019] Available from: https://www.nhsemployers.org/retention-and-staff-experience/health-and-wellbeing/taking-a-targeted-approach/taking-a-targeted-approach/menopause-in-the-workplace
 Channel 4 (2019). Channel 4 launches dedicated Menopause Policy. [Accessed 4th December 2019] Available from: https://www.channel4.com/press/news/channel-4-launches-dedicated-menopause-policy
 The BMS (2019). Menopause and the workplace guidance: What to consider. [Accessed 4th December 2019] Available from: https://thebms.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/07-BMS-TfC-Menopause-and-the-workplace-02C.pdf
Faculty of Occupational Medicine (2016) Guidance on menopause and the workplace. [Accessed 4th December 2019] Available from: https://www.som.org.uk/sites/som.org.uk/files/Guidance-on-menopause-and-the-workplace.pdf
 NHS (2018) Menopause. [Accessed 4th December 2019] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/hot-flushes/