Going through the menopause transition at work can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and support, it doesn’t have to disrupt a person’s career or productivity. Since women make up about half the workforce, supporting employees during the menopause transition and in menopause makes good business sense. Unmanaged symptoms cost companies over $22 billion per year in lost productivity or absenteeism. Many women find it hard to get help from healthcare providers for perimenopause and also find it difficult to speak up at work about their challenges at this stage of life. This guide provides helpful tips for employers and employees on how to start the conversation and make the workplace more menopause-friendly.
The first step to managing the menopause transition at work is understanding what to expect. Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s 40s and can last between 4 to 10 years. This happens before menopause, which usually begins at age 51. During perimenopause, women’s hormones constantly fluctuate and they may experience symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, memory issues, and mood changes. All of these symptoms can impact how a woman feels and ultimately functions at work.
Here are some ideas about what to ask for at work, or to offer if you’re an employer:
- Flexible work schedules: Flexible work hours or work from home options can be useful. When sleep is disrupted at night, many women find that they can finally get to sleep in the early morning hours. With a later start to the work day, sleeping in may be a helpful way to get solid sleep in order to be energetic, focused, and productive while working. Also, working from home may allow women to comfortably take breaks when symptoms, such as hot flashes, flare up.
- Education: If your workplace regularly hosts educational speakers, consider someone to speak about women’s health and well-being during the menopause transition so everyone can learn together about this stage of life. This is also a good way to de-stigmatize office-based conversations and improve awareness for everyone, whether they are suffering or not.
- Create community: Going through perimenopause or struggling alone, just makes things harder. Finding co-workers who are at the same stage or who want to learn or create a support group goes a long way towards creating comfort and collegiality. This can also help create a more inclusive culture where women feel valued and supported at every life stage.
- Medical and mental health benefits: Companies that offer robust benefits that cover menopause-related services and treatments, such as physical or mental health assessments, hormone therapy, or talk therapy illustrate a commitment to women at mid-life. Ask your employer if they have specific offerings, if it is not obvious. As an employer, prioritize connecting employees with top quality healthcare service that can support those going through the menopause transition.
- Create a menopause-friendly environment: Companies can provide things like fans, healthy snacks, and a private space for rest. They can normalize taking breaks to manage perimenopause symptoms. These simple steps make a big difference in demonstrating a commitment to women’s health and wellbeing.
Perimenopause and menopause are a normal part of life, not an impairment or disability. With evidence-based knowledge and resources, people can thrive professionally through these changes and continue advancing their careers. Employers that prioritize women’s health needs can expect higher productivity, better employee retention, a stronger workplace culture, and a more equitable workplace.