by Jennifer Upton
Yes, perimenopause and menopause can have a significant impact on a person’s work performance.
It’s time to find ways to talk about it openly.
Imagine being a manager in the middle of a presentation in front of a room full of other managers and co-workers.
Suddenly, you feel your face flush.
A bead of sweat rolls down from your hairline.
It lands in the corner of your mouth in all its salty glory.
The shirt on your back becomes sticky.
You instantly become self-conscious.
Presentation is everything.
You keep talking, wielding your laser pointer with the firm intent to draw all eyes to the graphics you stayed up all night creating.
RESOURCES The East Sussex NHS Trust offers resources on navigating menopause at work here
Do we know how to identify the symptoms and talk about perimenopause and menopause at work?
In the same meeting, one colleague offers you a glass of cold water from the pitcher in the center of the boardroom table.
Another offers nothing but asks, “Are you okay?”
For millions of professionals, this is reality.
Along with hot flashes, many experience intense physical discomfort that prevents them from concentrating, or they might experience sleeplessness, mood swings, incontinence, or excessive bleeding.
Symptoms that will most likely affect their performance on the job and might even require them to reduce working hours or take time off completely.
NOT AN ILLNESS OR DISEASE
If the manager in our story were visibly pregnant, it is unlikely that anyone at the meeting would have asked if she was okay simply for showing the outward signs of being an expectant parent.
Perhaps not everyone is aware of the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause although our protagonist’s symptoms are just as normal.
Although the person who asked, “Are you okay,” likely meant well, it was neither the time nor place to draw attention to what is a natural, normal part of the life process.
The person who offered the water?
She is probably a kindred spirit.
Most women go through this stage of life, thus it needs to be accepted as the natural occurrence it is.
It’s important for everyone in the room to be aware that where one person is experiencing symptoms, there may be others suffering in silence.
The only way to do that is to talk about it.
RESOURCES The Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust offers resources on navigating menopause at work here
NORMALIZING THE CONVERSATION
The discussion around the topics of perimenopause and menopause still have a long way to go in the workplace.
Fortunately, many employers are realizing there is a cost benefit to normalizing the conversation.
Financial benefits often include:
- Reducing employee relations issues
- Reduction in the cost of turnover/recruitment
- Reduction in the cost of absences
- Added protection against legal issues involving discrimination
What can employers do to improve discussion in the workplace on this topic?
The most important thing any company, no matter how large or small can do is provide support.
Employers should see that:
- Their workforce receives training on discussing menopause.
- Working from home is offered as an option in jobs where it’s possible.
- In jobs where it’s not possible to work from home or take time off, a workforce should be given regular bathroom breaks and have access to cool fresh water at all times.
And it’s not just managers and workers in a boardroom who suffer.
Roles within the gig economy, such as delivery and ride-sharing app drivers or for factory and warehouse employees whose break times are strictly regulated.
Working from home is often not an option in jobs of this type.
Things will probably not improve for workers in these types of roles if the menopause narrative is not open and honest.
But, how can we start the conversation?
Training is a particularly important element of normalizing the conversation, whether through reading materials, workshops or videos.
As with any “verboten” topic, we often achieve normalization through education.
Throughout North America and Europe, there are several organizations that offer menopause awareness training including:
Additionally, employers can:
- Keep a diverse and inclusive staff.
- Set up a conversation-friendly environment.
- Urge both managers and employees to have private conversations with and between them about how menopause is affecting them at work.
- Ensure that everyone knows that support is available.
BENEFITS FROM MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE
The benefits to workers and a company’s bottom line can only improve if we speak about human biology in an open and frank manner.
Perhaps the next time a woman walks to the front of a boardroom to give a presentation, it will go smoother if everyone in the room understands it when she flushes red.
A glass of water and an understanding smile go a long way.
The preceding information does not constitute medical advice or treatment.
Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn