General health

How to cope with menopause symptoms at work

Some women sail through the menopause with barely a symptom. Unfortunately, these lucky individuals are the exception rather than the rule.

For others, it can be more difficult with a range of menopausal symptoms to contend with that seem to come on with little rhyme or reason. The menopause transition affects people in different ways which can make it difficult to manage.

From hot flushes to mood changes, one big challenge many women face is how to cope with these symptoms while in the workplace.

While some large organisations have their own occupational health departments for support, most SMEs don’t. Managing menopause symptoms at work is not just a challenge for the individual woman but for their employer as well.

Most women suffer from the menopause between the average age of 45 and 55 and symptoms can last for up to 4 years. Understanding and recognising menopausal symptoms is important and both employers and employees need to encourage a supportive and open environment.

That can include simple things like allowing flexible working, supporting someone who needs to move to a cooler part of the office and providing counselling if needed.

Can you take time off work for the menopause?

There is no specific provision for taking paid time off work for menopausal women and this will vary from business to business.

According to ACAS, however, you could have a case for disability discrimination if you are being treated differently because you are going through the menopause.

Do companies have a menopause policy?

While it wasn’t generally the case in the past, many more businesses nowadays have a menopause policy in place and it’s important to check with your HR department whether this is the case where you work.

This kind of policy normally ensures that reasonable adjustments are made by the employer for anyone who is going through the menopause at work.

How menopausal symptoms can affect work-life

A variety of symptoms can affect an individual going through the menopause including hot flushes, anxiety attacks, mood swings and brain fog.

Perimenopausal symptoms such as brain fog can make it difficult to perform to high standards in the workplace. Anxiety and mood swings may also affect relationships causing friction. A person may not realise they are going through the menopause, particularly if they are still menstruating.

A study by the British Menopause Society found that almost half of women going through the menopause at work felt that it had a negative impact and, if they did take time off work, they were unlikely to say that their menopause symptoms were the reason.

In severe cases where there is little or no support, women can find themselves isolated and dealing with a loss of confidence. Menopausal women are more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety as well as depression.

If you would like to book an appointment with our private GPs who specialise in women’s health, contact the team at Prime Health today. Click here to book an appointment >>

Managing menopause in the workplace

For menopausal women, there are lots of challenges in the workplace particularly if they suffer from severe symptoms. The first hurdle is that it’s not something that individuals often want to discuss. This can be a particular problem in smaller businesses.

Here are some simple ways you can manage menopausal symptoms at work:

Hormone replacement therapy

HRT is a safe way to manage menopause and involves boosting the level of oestrogen and other important hormones.

It comes in the form of HRT patches, implants, tablets or sprays and usually improves symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes over a period of a few weeks. Speak to your GP for advice.

There was a time when HRT was not readily prescribed because there was a fear that it increased the risk of breast cancer. The study that led to this conclusion was subsequently reviewed in later years and was found to be inaccurate. Further studies have confirmed that HRT has a very small effect on breast cancer, with the more natural preparations having no increased risk for the first five years of taking it and then only a very small effect. HRT is essentially very safe and also has lots of beneficial effects including bone strengthening.

Stay hydrated

One simple thing you can do as a menopausal woman is to make sure you stay hydrated.

The combination of stress and hot flashes in the workplace can deplete your hydration levels so make sure that you always keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Cold drinking water can also help with problems like hot flashes.

Have an office fan

Even during the winter, a hot flush can be pretty uncomfortable for menopausal women so having an office fan nearby can help cool things down.

Start a support group for menopausal women

If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, it may seem that you are alone. Creating a support group for women and training menopause advocates can help develop a workplace environment that is strong on raising awareness.

The menopause is often seen as a taboo subject, even in these more enlightened times. We suggest you work with your line manager to set up a support group. At the very least, it will show you that you are not alone at all.

How can businesses support women at work going through the menopause?

  1. Line managers don’t often feel comfortable talking about the menopause. That’s why it’s important to develop set processes that give people the right tools, whether that’s training on the issues or having a named person to provide support within your organisation.
  2. Simple changes such as allowing flexible working for the individual and providing practical support, for example, having a cooling fan in the office can certainly help.
  3. It’s important to have a conversation if the menopausal symptoms are causing an issue in the workplace and to provide unconditional support. While this can be difficult, it means you can then put together a plan that works for the individual. That could include the option to take more regular breaks or give more time to prepare for meetings and other events.
  4. It’s important not to sideline the individual and practice good listening skills and give encouragement. This can be a long process for many women and ongoing support is essential.
  5. Encourage employees to seek help and support from their GP if they need it. If employees have a corporate health insurance policy, ensure they are clear on how to access private healthcare.

How do I talk to my boss about menopause?

This is something that many menopausal women find difficult even if their boss is another woman. First, check if the business already has a menopause policy in place and what that entails.

If there isn’t one, arrange to have a private meeting to discuss your condition and how it might be affecting you at work as well as what support would help. In most cases, you’ll find that your line manager or boss is open and understanding and will help you develop a plan to move forward.

Conclusion

The menopause transition is a difficult time in a woman’s life and can have a wide range of different symptoms from poor concentration, hot flashes and sleepless nights to low mood swings and depression.

At Prime Health, we offer specialist GP services for all areas of women’s health, including coping with the menopause.

Appointments with our GPs ensure we give you the time needed to understand your condition and provide the right solutions for you.

If you want to find out more about how we can support you, contact the team at Prime Health today. Click here to book an appointment >>

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