As perimenopausal and menopausal women, we cannot pick and choose when our symptoms appear. Unfortunately, this means that they can often arise at the most inconvenient moments – for example, at work. As many as 80% of menopausal women are in work, and could be suffering as a result of poor workplace culture surrounding the treatment of this condition. Menopause in the workplace is a subject being increasingly talked about – and for good reason. Many women have experienced the awkwardness of attending a meeting and leaving halfway through to fan themselves down in the bathroom in order to alleviate a hot flush. Worse still is having to explain this to a superior, who may have no understanding of or sympathy for women’s health issues.
In fact, these very scenarios are causing a sudden rise in employment tribunals surrounding cases of unfair dismissal. In the first six months of 2021 alone, there were 10 tribunals referencing menopause, 16 in the previous year and six in the year before that. It could be suggested that a rise in awareness of menopause due to documentaries such as TV presenter Davina McCall’s famed Sex, Myths and the Menopause, as well as a general increase in platforms circulating information about women’s health and equality in the workplace, is empowering women to ensure that these common health problems are taken seriously at work.
Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott, bioidentical hormone specialist at The Marion Gluck Clinic, says, “Many larger corporations already have policies in place that offer support for employees going through the menopause, but some smaller firms are not equipped to deal with concerns of this nature. In these cases, although it may not feel like the employee’s responsibility, they must speak up in order to increase their chances of gaining support. In turn, this might encourage others to voice their issues regarding menopause in the workplace, paving the way for better support in future.”
If you are wondering how to increase your wellbeing while experiencing menopausal symptoms at work, we have put together five practical tips regarding broaching the subject with leadership, increasing your knowledge of your own health, facilitating an improved work-life balance, and more.
1. Approach Your Manager About Menopause Policies
If the company that you work for already has policies regarding the menopause in place, then these may be available for you to explore in an employee handbook or by asking your HR department. If no policies have been created, it might be time to approach management about creating some form of strategy to help yourself as well as others going through menopause. For example, as Dr Aziz-Scott stated in an article for Real Business, “Training should be given on recognising the signs and symptoms of problems associated with different phases of the female lifespan”. With the correct training, management and employees will benefit from knowledge about not just the menopause, but other female hormonal issues associated with postnatal depression, IVF, endometriosis and more.
If you think that you may be met with a dismissive response, be sure to turn up to your meeting with some research to support your request, such as evidence of other companies with women’s health policies in place, and suggestions on what could be improved and how this could benefit both employees and the company.
2. Know The Difference Between Stress And Hormone Imbalance
While the menopause is well known for causing fatigue, brain fog, sleep problems and more, don’t dismiss the possibility that it may be stress causing these symptoms instead. However, it can be difficult to find out which condition is the definite cause. The best way to distinguish between the two is to take steps to reduce stress, such as reducing your workload, increasing self care and improving your relationships inside and outside of work. If you are still experiencing these symptoms weeks later, it may be menopause at play.
Either way, reducing stress at work is one way to help you feel more like yourself again.
3. Encourage Open Conversation About Menopause
Up until recently, menopause was either a taboo subject or the butt of a joke in the workplace. Now, with increasing awareness, people are more open to discussing menopause and taking it more seriously as a health condition. Indeed, all women will go through menopause at some point in their lives.
However, if your workplace is still behind the times when it comes to talking about the menopause, you may be the key to launching this discourse. It might feel uncomfortable to talk about your health problems, so the best way is to approach a colleague whom you know well and trust, and start from there. You never know, this may even prompt your colleague to continue the conversation with others, creating a network of support within your workplace.
If more people speak up about menopausal concerns, it will encourage employers to take more action when it comes to providing support.
4. Enquire About Flexible Working Options
Many employees assume that they cannot change their work culture or policies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a great deal of attention to the possibilities of flexible working. In fact just under 50 of the UK’s biggest employers have adopted a hybrid working policy post-lockdown, with some bosses stating that their businesses may never return to the traditional 9-5 office attendance.
If you think that flexible working would make your menopausal experience more positive, it may be time to have a meeting with management to ask whether this would be a possibility.
On the other hand, flexible working isn’t for everyone. For example, if you find that you are too distracted at home, you could ask your employer about coming into the office more often, or whether they might fund a subscription to a coworking space for you and others to use.
5. Establish Boundaries
At The Marion Gluck Clinic, we take a holistic approach to hormone balancing. Alongside hormone therapy, we also ensure that other areas of our patients’ lives are addressed so that they can have the best chance of living a high quality of life through the menopause and beyond. This includes creating a better work-life balance in order to reduce cortisol levels to allow other hormones to reach normal levels. Establishing boundaries with your job is one way to increase your work-life balance.
Many of us are guilty of answering emails late at night, taking a work call at a family dinner, and staying late in the office far more than we should. However, all of this contributes to an inability to switch off from work. If you’re menopausal, this only creates more stress and exacerbates those unwanted symptoms like irritability and anxiety.
Be firm with your management about establishing boundaries when it comes to your work. Perhaps state that you will only deal with work-related matters within the hours specified in your contract, and make sure to put this into action in your personal time – sign out of your work login on your laptop, turn off email notifications, and either do not take calls or let callers know that you will deal with matters once you are back at work.
Talk To A Hormone Specialist – Book Online Today
Alongside ensuring that you have a better quality of wellbeing at work, it could be beneficial to approach a specialist with your menopausal hormone issues to help you improve all areas of your hormonal health. Find out how our team of hormone specialists at The Marion Gluck Clinic could help you by booking a consultation today.