You’re about to present in front of your team—something you’ve done hundreds of times before. When suddenly, you’re hit by a wave of emotion. Before you can stop it, hot tears spring from your eyes, but you have no idea why. You mumble a quick excuse and run to the bathroom to compose yourself. Embarrassed, confused and annoyed with yourself, you return and apologise, getting on with your presentation and trying to pretend it didn’t just happen.

It sounds pretty hideous, doesn’t it? That’s an example of what it’s like to be experiencing symptoms due to peri-menopause or menopause. 

Until quite recently, it was a taboo subject. Women of my mother’s generation would never discuss it between themselves, let alone with colleagues. Now it’s a different story. There are books, organisations, podcasts and even Instagram influencers, raising awareness and providing education to normalise menopause and help society understand this challenging time in a woman’s life.

What is the menopause or peri-menopause?

It’s the time when a woman’s reproductive hormones naturally decline, and it can start anytime in your 40s and 50s and generally lasts 4-8 years. 

Common symptoms include hot flashes, sleep disturbances and hormonal changes that can contribute to mood changes, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, and trouble concentrating or making decisions. Around 85% of women will experience menopausal symptoms. 63% say their symptoms had a negative effect on their work. 20% describe their experience as severe.

Why does my workplace need to be menopause friendly?

Aside from providing much-needed support to your employees, it affects your workplace culture. 

  • Women over 45 years of age are among the fastest-growing age groups in the workforce, particularly in the 55-64 age group. Women experiencing menopausal symptoms are in your organisation today. 
  • This study found a strong link between the severity of symptoms and reduced engagement and satisfaction with work—as well as a higher intention to quit work. Meaning you have an at-risk category of employees – one that likely has a wealth of institutional knowledge and experience. 
  • We know that organisations with more women at the top perform better financially. But so far, one million women have left their careers due to the debilitating effects of menopause—leaving workforces less diverse and less profitable.

Let’s not forget, too, workplaces are facing the Great Resignation, and 2022 is the year of focusing on employee wellbeing. 

If organisations want to hold on to valued talent and have a diverse workforce, they must consider how they support menopausal women. Doing this will enable employers to create an environment and culture where women feel confident enough to raise issues about their symptoms and ask for adjustments at work. They will also see positive effects to their bottom line and business performance.

3 ways to be more menopause-friendly

  • Start with a policy

This can include access to desk fans, a quiet/cool room in the office, flexible working, paid leave and occupational health services. Channel Four in the UK has an excellent and renowned menopause policy.

  • Educate managers and colleagues

Menopause isn’t a woman’s issue; it’s a workplace issue. 51% of women do not feel comfortable talking to their manager about menopause symptoms. Raising awareness can break down barriers to conversation and result in better support.

  • Be open, flexible and empathetic.

Workplaces are starting to recognise their employees as human beings with bodies that can present various challenges. Allowing space and time for doctors or specialists appointments, self-care and the ability to feel comfortable to do their work will go a long way.

HR departments may come up against internal pushback, worried their policies will get taken advantage of. However, in general, employers with flexible policies and recognise not everyone experiences the same symptoms in menopause, such as the Channel Four Policy, report greater employee satisfaction, improved productivity and less sick leave. 

More resources:

ABC Podcast

Menopause resources for businesses

Channel Four Menopause Policy

Hen-pecked: Menopause in the workplace