Menopause and the workplace

Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

03 November 2015

Menopause at work

Working in a lovely company, which is woman dominant, and where we can get lots of support for any health problems, I naively thought that it would be the same in any workplace. How wrong I was! I have been really shocked by what some women have to put up with.

Now, most women will go through the menopause without too much of a problem but for some women it can be a really miserable time and if you are trying to cope with the following issues and trying to be efficient and energetic at work, it can be really hard.

What symptoms might affect you in the workplace?

Menopause can cause the following problems, which can make work life difficult:

  • Fatigue: for some women this is not just about being a bit tired but by total fatigue from morning till night, 7 days a week.
  • Poor memory or loss of concentration: this can be a really difficult one to deal with, especially if you have to be on the ball at work, or are a boss or supervisor yourself. Many women tell me that they now find talking to their colleagues or giving presentations a nightmare, as they are afraid they will dry up at some point and look foolish.
  • Embarrassment: this can stem from having hot flushes in front of colleagues – what woman really wants to tell the whole office or shop floor that they are going through the menopause, especially if there are a lot of men present. There are often enough jokes about ‘that time of the month’ anyway!
  • Some women get very physical symptoms such as joint or muscle pain and if you have a very physical job or are on your feet all day, it can be really hard to keep going.
  • A weak bladder: this is a really common symptom that means that you have to keep running to the toilet, which may not be possible due to your shift or if you are in a job that involves travelling/driving.
  • The peri-menopause can also cause a lot of issues such as prolonged or heavy bleeding, which means that you have to keep changing sanitary wear and there’s also the worry about leaking in front of colleagues. Also, some women get severe cramps which can be physically debilitating.

I have had a number of women tell me that their boss is very unsympathetic to their situation, even threatening them with the sack if they don’t improve, and this is not just male bosses – I am appalled at how some of the younger women haven’t a clue either!!

So what can you do if you are finding work really difficult or you feel that your boss is discriminating against you or has a negative attitude to your situation?

If you are working in a big company:

The first thing to do is to refer to your company’s policies/handbook for guidance in how to raise problematic issues.

Then go and see your HR Dept and explain to them how you are feeling and how your symptoms are affecting your work. Ask if you can have a meeting with your boss accompanied by an HR representative. I know that having to speak to a boss about your menopausal symptoms, especially if they are male, can be extremely daunting and embarrassing, so having a mediator can be a real help. To be honest, most men and younger women really have no idea about the menopause so they may actually appreciate a little education on the matter!

What can you ask of your company?

Your company may need to consider flexible working patterns and allow female staff to take longer or more frequent toilet breaks.

Does your company have other female managers whom you can turn to and seek guidance from? If there are a large number of women of menopausal age in your workplace, would it be beneficial to create a support group?

Looking at the working environment may prove beneficial. For example, is there adjustable temperature control when women are suffering really badly with flushes and sweats? Are there adequate drinking water supplies? If wearing a uniform, is it able to be adjusted or partly removed, and is there an opportunity and facilities for women to change clothes during the day?

If you work for a small company it can be more difficult to get your message across but it is really important that you have a voice and that you are not threatened in any way. If you feel that you need more advice you can contact ACAS – this is an organisation that can help with employment issues.

Is there anything you can do to help yourself?

Yes, fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for your working day so that it can go more smoothly.

  • Having a good breakfast is really important in the menopause. Your nutritional needs require attention in the morning and we know that low blood sugars can actually trigger flushes so eating well at this time is a must. Sugary breakfast cereals are not to be recommended as they can spike your blood sugars very quickly and leave you feeling hungry and nervy so make sure that you have a protein based breakfast such as scrambled eggs or an omelette with tomatoes, mushrooms etc. or some natural yogurt with nuts, seeds and some berries. If you feel that you can’t eat a lot for breakfast try a protein powder shake, although make sure that it is low in sugar and doesn’t have artificial sweeteners in it.
  • Dehydration can be a big issue at work and dehydration can trigger flushes and anxiety and foggy thinking! To get things rolling the minute you get up have a big glass of warm water to hydrate the body. If your work involves not being able to get to the toilet when you want, then sip water slowly as often as possible, rather than drinking a whole glass which can often make you need the toilet soon after. Try to drink water rather than caffeine or fizzy drinks as these can dehydrate you further.
  • If you tend to sweat a lot at work, wear layers of clothes so you can take some off if you get hot, and try to wear natural fibres such as cotton as man-made materials don’t let the skin breathe as much, so you can end up feeling wet and clammy after a flush.
  • If loss of confidence or focus is an issue then you could try one of the Flower Essences such as Confidence Essence or Concentration Essence. The lovely thing about these is that you can carry the bottle in your handbag and just pop a couple of drops straight onto the tongue when needed.

Has anything like this happened to you and how did you resolve it?

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

Learn the truth behind other menopause myths

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