The excellent UK discrimination blog, “Michael Rubenstein Presents … Expertise on Equality, Diversity and Discrimination Law” asks the question whether menopause is “the last workplace taboo.” This is a fascinating question, although I think we will come up with a lot more workplace taboos over time.
Rubenstein states that almost half of the UK workforce consists of women over 50, and that “these women will be experiencing the menopause or have been through it.” He notes that “[m]any managers are unaware of the many physical symptoms of the menopause which might affect a woman’s well-being at work.” The Working through the Change study found that symptoms made worse by work may consist of “hot flushes, headaches and tiredness. Workplace temperature and poor ventilation also made symptoms worse.”
Because women are now working longer, “[b[y supporting working women experiencing the menopause employers can reduce absenteeism, maximize productivity and make the workplace environment as comfortable as possible.”
Citing research conducted by Amanda Griffiths of Nottingham University (Women’s Experience of Working through the Menopause), Rubinstein lists some relevant tips for employers, which I quote verbatim:
1. Raising awareness of the menopause in an occupational setting through health promotion programmes and awareness training for managers.
2. Organising social support within the work place. This could include information packs, mentoring schemes and lunch time support.
3. Offer flexible working hours, job sharing, and opportunities to work from home. Many women experience tiredness.
4. The temperature of the work environment can be an issue, especially in refined spaces. Fans and temperature controls could be implemented.
5. A rest room where women can relax, just to have some space.
6. Cold drinking water – many organisations do not provide this.
7. Prioritise work life balance and maintain firm boundaries in working life and non-working life. Adopt buffer zones so that women feel in control more effectively. Many menopausal women experience feelings of ‘not coping’. If work becomes an issue encourage a specific time each day so that worries can be written down and then discarded.
8. Remain hopeful and optimistic – women experiencing the menopause often go through different types of emotions such as anxiety and depression. Remember these feelings do subside. Encourage women to discuss how they feel as these feelings are very normal.
9. Become a supportive manager, women are more likely to discuss menopausal issues with somebody they feel able to talk to. This also encourages organisational loyalty and less absenteeism which can only be a good thing for all companies.