Navigating Menopause in the workplace: tips to cope with symptoms

Whilst managing your menopause symptoms at home can be challenging enough, coping with the symptoms at your work and the impact it can have on your performance and concentration can be profound. Add on speaking with your employer or manager to help you through this transition can be an added layer of unwanted and unnecessary stress.

Menopausal women in the workplace

In a survey of 1,000 adults in the UK, the British Menopause Society found that 45% of women felt that menopausal symptoms had a negative impact on their work and 47% who needed to take a day off work due to menopause symptoms say they wouldn’t tell their employer the real reason.

Yet increasingly menopausal women are making up the fastest growing demographic in the workforce. Which is why now more than ever is so important for us as a collective of women to support each other to enable women to speak up at their workplace, educate and encourage our employers to do more, and to continue the open conversation about menopause at work. After all, menopause is a normal and natural thing almost every woman will go through and help should be available to you.

When does the menopause start?

It’s also important to note, many women will go through what’s called perimenopause in which symptoms of menopause occur before their periods have actually stopped. Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but it can be earlier or later than this too.

The array of menopause symptoms will also vary from person to person, as will the severity. Symptoms can also fluctuate, and most women will experience some degree of symptoms for around 4 years!

Tips to cope with Menopause symptoms

Embracing a new way of working can take time but it can be a game-changer in the way you are able to carry out your role to the best of your ability and keep your sanity! Come at it with a positive attitude and equipped with the changes that can be made in order to improve your quality of life.

Learn about any menopause resources at your workplace

Do you know if your workplace has a menopause policy or dedicated support group or any other resources that may benefit you in your workplace specifically? There may be support for you, such as time off for healthcare appointments or leaving earlier if your symptoms flare up. You may also be able to request flexible working and start or finish earlier or later, particularly if you’ve had a restless night’s sleep, or maybe you could change your shift patterns.

Open communication

It is important to speak with your manager or HR department about your menopausal symptoms and any adjustments you might need or support that can be offered. Explain the challenges you're facing and how it’s affecting your work - and don’t play it down. Then discuss potential solutions and adaptations that could support you in performing your best at work.

Bonus tip – put a follow up meeting in the diary to review how successful the changes have been.

Changes to work environment

Even the smallest of changes can make a big difference. Can you move to a cooler area of your office or work by an open window for some fresh air? Is there cool drinking water easily available to you? Is your desk and workstation set up efficiently to reduce aches and pains? This is particularly important when working from home or your work involves long periods of sitting or standing in one place. Perhaps you can take regular breaks to move around, which can help you recharge.

Dress for comfort

Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton and loose-fitting clothing. Nylon or tight clothing could make hot flushes worse and cause skin irritation. Another option is to dress in layers which allows you to easily regulate your body temperature by taking off a few layers when experiencing hot flushes. Also, keep a fan at your desk for quick relief! If you wear a uniform, you could also request a different one that is more comfortable for you.

Keep a healthy diet & lifestyle

It goes without saying, maintaining a healthy balanced diet with exercise can make the world of difference to your health and menopause symptoms. Ensure you are also drinking plenty of water throughout the day to help minimise the intensity of hot flushes and do your best to manage your stress levels with either some deep breathing or meditation or gentle exercise, such as yoga. Outside of the workplace, you should also look for any local Menopause Cafes or other support groups, such as online social media groups, to speak to other women going through the same thing.

Seek support

Can you share your experience either with a colleague or even a family member at first? Reaching out and seeking support can provide valuable support and encouragement especially with others who understand. Also look into joining support groups for women going through menopause.

Consider medical options

If your symptoms are significantly impacting your quality of life and work performance, speak to your healthcare provider about medical options such as hormone replacement therapy or other medication to alleviate symptoms. You could also speak to your manager or HR department about access to occupational health services.

Remember, menopause is a natural part of life, and you're not alone in navigating it. By implementing these tips and seeking support when needed, you can take control of your menopause journey at work and thrive in your career.

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