The fastest-growing demographic in the workplace are menopausal women, and yet the conversation of menopause has not yet been started in many workplace environments, which has serious consequences.
In some studies, two out of every three women surveyed reported that going through menopause had a moderate to severe impact on their working life. Some people even choose to leave their jobs because of how menopause affects them, which is why making the work environment more comfortable for more employees is so important. In most cases, with some workplace changes, the risk of losing experienced employees can be lessened.
Menopause refers to the time in a person’s life when her/their period stops and has been stopped for a year. This is due to the ovaries stopping the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. It can be provoked by natural aging, surgical removal of ovaries and sometimes chemotherapy. In the time that it takes to reach menopause, the body goes through a transitional phase, called perimenopause. Perimenopause is the time frame in which menopausal symptoms can be exhibited, and this transitional phase can last for years, usually 7, but sometimes longer according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, with the average age of having the last period at 51 according to the North American Menopause Society.
Perimenopause and menopausal symptoms include irregular periods, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, headaches, stress, dizziness, fatigue, more frequent need to use the restroom and mood changes. It can also affect memory and cause problems with concentration.
These symptoms can vary from person to person in terms of both length and severity.
Taking into account the severity of some of these symptoms, as well as the fact that it can last for years, this period of time can be very trying for those who experience menopause. It can be especially difficult transitioning when considering work and workplace struggles. According to the U.S. Labor Bureau of Statistics, over 20 percent of the American workforce is affected by menopause, and with a growing older population, change in the workplace needs to occur.
One of the first things that employers, HR department or management can do is to have an open environment where talking about it is welcomed. Something else that can help is having awareness and educational training that can further equip employers or managers on how to navigate through these conversations. Once the conversation has been opened up, flexible working hours or options to work from home on particularly difficult days would help a lot of people experiencing severe menopausal symptoms. Some small office environment changes like temperature regulation, better ventilation, providing cold water and allowing more breaks may offer comfort.
There are a number of things one can do to combat the symptoms of menopause. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and take time for yourself. This will benefit you on the job and when not working as well.
Menopause at Work
Guidance on Menopause and the Workplace