My top five tips for managing the menopause at work
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
For many women, experiencing the menopause while at work can feel embarrassing, uncomfortable and distressing. Hot flushes can be exacerbated by stuffy offices, restrictive uniforms and PPE; brain fog can make you forget people’s names or key information; and anxiety can make you feel incompetent, paranoid and lose your confidence. Over half of women in a recent survey reported that menopausal symptoms have a negative impact on their work, and in extreme cases women have left work all together because of the menopause.
Dealing with your menopausal symptoms at home can be hard enough! Fortunately lots of us have been able to work from home during the pandemic, where we can control the temperature, go to the toilet whenever we like and avoid emotional outbursts in front of colleagues. But, if your job doesn’t let you work from home or you’re now returning to the office, then you need to ways to alleviate your symptoms and get the support you need from your manager and employer.
Whilst some enlightened employers have a menopause policy, all employers have a responsibility to support women as menopause symptoms are protected under employment law in the Equality Act of 2010. Even for those without menopause policies, existing policies such as sickness or flexible working will cover the menopause. You should not have to suffer in silence at work – or worse, press pause on your career.
Here are my top five tips for managing the menopause at work.
Don't Suffer in Silence
You may feel the need to hide your symptoms at work or pretend that everything is fine when it's not. On some days, your symptoms may be manageable. But there may be other times when they become severe and you struggle to cope. If you feel your symptoms are affecting your work then you will need to talk about it at some point.
Consider whether you can talk to your line manager, which maybe challenging if your boss is male, young or both! If you have a good relationship with them then hopefully, they will be prepared to listen and provide support. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your line manager, then can you talk to someone else in your organisation such as a senior manager or somebody from HR about how you are feeling?
Ask them for a private meeting to discuss your health concerns (you don’t want to be overheard in the staff canteen), keep a diary of how you are feeling before the meeting so you can explain what is going on and emphasize that you would like the conversation to remain confidential.
Offer some practical solutions
It’s a good idea before you talk to your manager to write down how you are feeling and what impact your symptoms have been having at work. Your manager should work with you to provide effective support, but it's always a good idea to bring some solutions to the table, too. For example, if you're suffering from hot flushes regularly, perhaps you could request a desk fan or ask to sit next to a window. Often simple things like this can make a big difference.
Flexible working requests
If your symptoms become severe consider whether a flexible working request would help. For example, if you suffer from insomnia and feel lethargic all the time would adjusting your working hours, working part time or working from home help you be more effective?
It may not be possible to combat every symptom of the menopause. But making some simple changes to what you eat and maintaining a stable blood sugar level can really help. To do this:
Eat three meals a day at regular intervals.
Eat a palm-sized portion of protein at each meal (meat and poultry, fish and seafood, tofu, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds – ideally nothing in batter or breadcrumbs).
Don’t worry about healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados
Eat a minimum of five portions (three heaped tablespoons) of non-starchy vegetables / salad per day. Always have vegetables / salad with lunch and dinner, breakfast, too, if you wish.
Eat two portions of fruit per day, with meals - berries of any kind, apples, pears, plums, tangerines or similar, lemon and lime, peaches and nectarines are all great options
You would be amazed the difference making some changes to what you eat can make.
Talk to your friends
All too often women suffer in silence, thinking that they are the only ones who feel the way they do. Whilst everyone’s experience of the menopause is different, when you start talking to other women you will be surprised to learn how many of them are experiencing similar challenges, too. It's important to know that you're not alone.
If no one is talking about it, you might be doing them a favour by starting the conversation. Not only can this be a great source of emotional support, but it's also a good way to share tips and advice.
I work with organisations to offer menopause awareness sessions so that managers can appreciate what happens during the menopause and discuss ways to support their team members and colleagues. I also help companies to arrange Menopause Support Groups where women can get together to share their experiences, what has worked for them and feel less lonely and isolated.
To find out more about my menopause in the workplace talks and workshops please send me an email email@example.com