Do you know someone silently struggling with menopause at work? Perhaps it’s your mother, a close friend, an aunty, or even yourself. The reality is that ‘around 4.4 million women aged 50-64’ are going through the menopause transition and simultaneously trying to juggle their career. What’s startling about this statistic is that while the quantity of women experiencing menopause will always be high, quality conversations around the topic remain very low, especially in professional settings.
Women going through the menopause transition often feel comfortable confiding in close friends and family members about their struggles but will totally avoid engaging in any conversation about it at work. Menopause is still somewhat of a taboo and therefore women at work avoid addressing their symptoms which means that they can’t access the critical support needed. This is where HR departments can, and absolutely, should step in.
This blog will discuss the effects of menopause on women in the workplace and how HR professionals play a vital role in offering support to women as they navigate through the transition.
Marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years, menopause is a natural biological process which usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Though some women can experience premature menopause in their 30s, and for others it can be delayed well into their 60s.
Unfortunately, there is no avoiding menopause and the barrage of physical symptoms it presents, as well as the emotional toll it takes on a woman’s life; these are both huge factors to consider when thinking about the working environment.
A drastic shift in hormone levels, whereby estrogen plummets and stress levels soar, means that menopause arrives with a scroll-worth of symptoms for women to endure. The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability, sleep disturbance and weight gain.
If you then think about dealing with menopause at work, these symptoms can be especially hard to handle and could compromise a woman’s ability to focus due to brain fog or a general lack of sleep. A recent survey revealed that ‘one in ten women have quit their job’ because of the severity of their menopause symptoms.
If your team is made up of both males and females and there is a diverse age range within the department, some employees may be more aware of the effects of menopause than others. By briefing all staff on the topic it will help to break down the stigma associated with menopause and create more empathy among your employees.
When a woman has the courage to address her struggles with menopause at work, don’t turn a blind eye. Look at how you can provide information on stress management techniques or certain lifestyle changes that could be implemented to improve things. Setting up counseling is another great way to support women going through the transition.
Flexible working arrangements are a superb remedy for women struggling with menopause at work. The ability to work from home, reduce weekly hours, and take more breaks, will be of high value to those in perimenopause or menopause. Flexibility with working patterns means women are able to better manage their symptoms which can only be a positive thing for productivity.
Communication is key. Don’t make menopause more of a taboo than it already is – create an environment where there can be open and honest dialect and a level of understanding. Think about setting up support groups for women in the organisation who are going through menopause, after all – a problem shared, is a problem halved. There is comfort to be taken from women connecting with one another.
HR professionals play a critical role in breaking down the stigma surrounding menopause at work. As somebody working within human resources you have a responsibility to nurture a safe space for women to feel like they can come forward when they’re particularly struggling to cope with symptoms. To retain your best talent, it’s vital to support staff through this change via research, open dialogue and a level of flexibility. Dedicating the necessary time to this topic will ensure that women avoid feeling miserable at work and it will also lessen the impact on business operations.