Working through the menopause
If you’re a woman aged over 50, you’re in the most rapidly growing sector of the workforce. And it’s likely that you have either gone through the menopause while working, or will soon do so.
While the menopause is becoming a lot more visible in the media, many women don’t feel comfortable talking honestly and openly about their own personal experience of this. In the workplace, you may feel pressure to keep on going at your usual pace without disclosing what’s really happening – even when symptoms leave you feeling far from your usual self.
Fortunately, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) conducted a survey recently, in a bid to examine how the symptoms of menopause affect how women feel at work. The insight gathered encouraged the CIPD to create a range of useful resources, to help employers support their employees through the menopause at work. And, importantly, to make the topic less taboo, and more talked about in the workplace.
How are women being affected by the menopause at work?
The CIPD survey found that three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 said their menopause symptoms have a negative impact on them in the workplace.
It’s likely that situations will improve if women feel more confident talking to work colleagues about how and why the menopause can make work harder. Not only will this allow for opportunities to explore simple solutions to improve things (for example, allowing regular breaks when a woman is tired or providing a fan or a desk next to the window to help alleviate regular hot flushes). It’ll also allow women to feel more heard – and more likely to keep on talking about the support they need in order to reach their full potential at work.
Why can menopausal symptoms feel more extreme in the workplace?
Rachel Suff from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) says: "Very few organisations have a policy or framework in place to support women but small things can make a big difference."
At home, it’s often easier to sit down if you’re tired, or to open a window if you need a bit of fresh air. In the workplace (especially if you’re in a busy office) it’s often a little harder to do things at your own pace, or to adjust your environment to suit your needs.
But with acknowledgement and support from work colleagues, it’s easier for women’s needs to be met. If the workforce comes together to learn more about the menopause, then the support a woman receives will be valuable, continuous and more likely to make a difference.
Why aren’t women more honest about their situation?
Nearly a third of women surveyed (30%) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence. This insight alone makes it obvious that there’s still stigma surrounding the menopause, and as a result women probably feel alone in their situation, and more inclined to keep their experiences to themselves.
Everything from confidence to productivity can take a major dent if a woman doesn’t feel she can honestly share the ways in which her menopause is affecting her. Symptoms can range from hot flushes and night sweats to recurrent urinary infections and vaginal soreness. And it’s not just during the menopause that these symptoms occur – it’s common for women to continue to experience these effects post-menopause, too.
If employees are aware of the symptoms, they will be able to acknowledge any potential problems that an employee might be having that may be affecting her work, and be able to offer support when needed.
What else can employers do to help their employees?
The CIPD have created a toolbox of resources that offers guidance on managing the menopause at work. They believe that employers who have all the information at their fingertips will be better able to fully support their workforce. And at the same time, knowledge and more open conversation will help to break the taboo around menopause in the workplace.
Managing symptoms of the menopause at work
If you have questions about the menopause, our team of Gynaecologists are here to offer you guidance on how best to manage the symptoms. It may be that you want to find out more about HRT, or explore effective treatments such as the MonaLisa Touch laser therapy for improving vaginal dryness.
How can I find out more?
If you’d like to learn more about the menopause or make an appointment, please contact our clinic.