Menopause Working - Business Leader News

Menopause Working

‘A must-read for employers wishing to learn more about the subject and to make changes that will benefit both their employees and their company.’ – Alice Smellie, Co-Author of Cracking The Menopause

Experienced HR Director and menopause advocate and speaker, Cathy Hastie uses her experience and education to speak up on the impacts of menopause of women in the workplace, something that is often remained unmentioned, and under-recognised.

Menopause Working intends to help women and employers improve their understanding of menopause and implement changes that can help women thrive during this time of hormonal changes. A guidebook on managing menopause symptoms, protecting women’s rights, understanding employer responsibilities, and managing performance is the main responsibility of this book. This text is an inclusionary masterpiece that advocates for women with the use of both personal experience and knowledge drawn from Human Resources practitioner working.

Here is an extract from Menopause Working by Cathy Hastie.

Symptoms in the workplace

It is shocking the number of people (women included) who are not familiar with what the menopause transition is and how it affects us. Menopause has been such a taboo subject in the past that it’s not surprising. But it’s also not helpful for effective management if we don’t know what is happening to us and why, as well as being able to receive support from managers in the workplace.

Menopause transition must be discussed honestly and openly in the workplace. If we don’t, we continue to risk negative impacts on both women and the workplace. The size of the problem facing women and employers shouldn’t be underestimated. A report published by the UK Government Women and Equalities Committee in July 2022 highlighted that if women leave the workplace during menopause, not only is there a loss of knowledge and skills, but there is an impact on the gender pay gap, pensions gap and the number of women in leadership.

The report quotes research carried out by healthcare provider BUPA which found that 900,000 women had left work because of their menopause symptoms. That is a huge section of the workforce, with knowledge and skills that would take years to replace, even if there were available candidates.

Top 10 symptoms

It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see how these symptoms could disrupt a woman’s ability to thrive in the workplace, whether it’s cognitive challenges or physical.

A study carried out in the UK by researchers at Nottingham University investigated the experience of women transitioning through the menopause in the workplace. The study found that of a list of 19 menopause symptoms, the top 10 of the most disruptive symptoms amongst the respondents were:

  1. Poor concentration 50.9%
  2. Tiredness 50.7%
  3. Poor memory 50.5%
  4. Feeling low/depressed 41.9%
  5. Lowered confidence 38.9%
  6. Sleep disturbances 37.3%
  7. Irritability 35.6%
  8. Hot flushes 35.1%
  9. Joint and muscular aches 31.3%
  10. Mood swings 29.0%

It is very helpful to see these symptoms listed in order of disruption to the women surveyed. The common perception of women suffering menopause symptoms at work, are having a hot flush which can be resolved with a desk fan. Now don’t misunderstand me, I fully appreciate the pain of an unexpected flush making an untimely appearance and have a great deal of respect for those women having flushes in full PPE (personal protection equipment) or ‘chefing’ in a stifling hot kitchen, but it is the tip of the iceberg from a work perspective. Hot flushes are less likely to cause you problems when it comes to your performance or applying for a promotion.

Cognitive symptoms such as poor concentration and memory compounded by tiredness are clearly a much concerning problem to the women surveyed and many of the women I talk to, and they warrant more discussion and attention than desk fans.

These are all incredibly unhelpful symptoms to have while you are trying to carry out your job and possibly run a home, but there are interventions and adjustments that can be put into place relatively easily to make working life more enjoyable and manageable. So, what is the size of the problem we are talking about and why should we care?

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