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Women Exercising Menopause 2


Navigating Menopause: Tips to Support Women in the Workplace


Understanding Menopause and its Symptoms 

Menopause, and the preceding perimenopause, are natural biological transitions marking the end of reproductive years in a woman’s life. As women age, ovarian function declines, leading to irregular periods around mid to late 40s (perimenopause), before ceasing altogether around age 50. This multifaceted phenomenon deserves greater attention, particularly in the context of the workplace, as potential impacts can extend beyond the physiological realm, influencing psychological wellbeing, professional productivity, and interpersonal dynamics. For instance, according to a recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey, 3 out of 5 working women between the ages of 45 and 55 experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. Moreover, more than 1 million women in the United Kingdom could be forced out of their jobs in 2024 because they feel that their employers are failing to support them as they experience menopause. It is therefore essential for organisations to be aware that their staff may be experiencing menopause and foster inclusive and supportive work environments.

According to Professor Jo Brewis, co-author of the Government Report on Menopause, ‘menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic’ with nearly 80% of menopausal women being actively engaged in employment. Many women may have no or only mild symptoms, while others can experience severe and sometimes debilitating symptoms.

These may include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Low libido
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive changes such as forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating  

Menopause in the Workplace: Challenges and Implications

The impact of menopause on some women's professional lives can be disruptive. Persistent symptoms such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances can impact concentration and productivity, apart from the previously stated cognitive challenges, leading to decreased job performance, increased absenteeism and presenteeism. Moreover, mood swings and irritability may strain interpersonal relationships and contribute to workplace tension. Women navigating menopause may also face stigma, misconceptions, and a lack of awareness among colleagues and managers. This can create an environment where women feel uncomfortable discussing their experiences or seeking support, further exacerbating their challenges.

Supporting Colleagues Through Menopause

For individuals suffering symptoms, effective management of menopause involves a holistic approach encompassing nutrition, physical activity, mental health and wellbeing strategies. The process is ideally supported by one’s doctor to guide screening and testing, and for some, hormone replacement therapy may be recommended.

Many of these activities are beneficial for all staff, not only those experiencing menopause. Employers can support by providing education programmes, healthy eating options in the cafeteria, and access to health screening programmes. Mental health tools such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and cognitive-behavioural techniques can aid in managing stress, anxiety, and mood fluctuations associated with menopause. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, virtual or in-person support groups, or counselling services can provide valuable resources and guidance as well. Mental wellbeing applications such as Koa Health can boost mental resilience and offer support for everyday mental health challenges that employees around the world are facing. Creating a supportive workplace environment is essential for facilitating open communication and fostering empathy towards colleagues navigating menopause.

Colleagues and managers can encourage an open dialogue to create a culture of empathy and understanding making the topic of menopause and women’s reproductive health less taboo. Offering more flexible work hours or hybrid/remote work options can also help accommodate fluctuating energy levels and the stress of commuting. While in the office, making resources available such as portable fans, water stations, and break rooms can be helpful, without singling any employees out. Promoting virtual or physical support groups along with employee assistance programmes is another strategy for improving employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.

How International SOS Can Help

Menopause represents a significant life transition for over half the population that necessitates comprehensive support and understanding. By recognising the challenges women face in the workplace and implementing supportive policies and practices organisations can create inclusive environments where women feel valued, respected, heard, and empowered to manage their health and wellbeing effectively. Together, employers and employees can acknowledge menopause while ensuring that women continue to thrive in their professional endeavours.