Navigating menopause at work is something that is not generally talked about. When I turned 50 and started experiencing my body changing, I did not expect the impact it would have on my work life. As an executive within my organisation, the persistent headaches and disruptive hot flushes began to interfere with the smooth flow of office dynamics.
The constant struggle to focus resulted in frequent lapses in my train of thought during crucial work moments. Nights became riddled with bouts of insomnia and disturbed sleep due to relentless hot sweats, leading to less-than-efficient days. This, in turn, triggered mood swings and created an overall suboptimal atmosphere in the workplace and at home. The overwhelm was real, and I felt alone and disempowered.
Menopause Struggling at Work
The evolving landscape of the workforce reflects a significant presence of women over 50. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, data from the UK show that women now make up 45% of the workforce in this age group. Despite this, menopause at work remains largely unaddressed.
Many women over 50, therefore, find themselves re-evaluating their work lives. We face the challenges of contemplating career opportunities, coupled with the dynamics of grown children potentially leaving the nest and the responsibility of caring for aging parents. Many of us experience the adverse effects of menopause. We must prioritise our well-being to have a more fulfilling journey through this significant life transition.
Many of us have reached a stage where we are managing teams or have built up substantial experience and have demanding jobs; the responsibilities and stressors inherent in these positions are already considerable. We are already experiencing this stress as leaders in the organisation.
Adding menopause into the mix can supersize the overwhelm that many women in this stage of their careers may experience. The physical and emotional challenges of menopause, including symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and disrupted sleep, can worsen the existing stress associated with leadership roles, creating a unique set of challenges that need attention and understanding.
Menopause Empathy in the Workplace
The workplace isn’t immune to the ebbs and flows of our personal lives, and acknowledging the impact of menopause is crucial for fostering environments that prioritize the well-being of employees, especially during this transformative phase.
By infusing our narratives with authenticity, we can bridge the gap between policies and the lived experiences of women, fostering workplaces that embrace empathy, understanding, and genuine support for every individual’s unique journey.
Addressing Menopause Stigmas
Navigating menopause in today’s society poses unique challenges. Unfortunately, many organizations are not adequately equipped to support women during this phase of life. Women are reluctant to discuss these struggles in the workplace often from the fear of being perceived as weak, adding another layer of difficulty.
Balancing the demands of the modern workplace, which tends to favour youth, nimbleness and energy over experience and wisdom, is particularly challenging. We are already dealing with strong masculine energies that make it hard for us to bring the usual duality of a woman’s role as a homemaker and child carer alongside our role in the office.
This situation worsens the emotional and hormonal turmoil that accompanies menopause, contributing to an overall sense of stress. In a world that increasingly ageist, with few senior roles for women, it’s disheartening that many women feel compelled to endure silently or, in some cases, even exit the workforce.
Menopause at Work Unmuted
When I first found myself grappling with the intricacies of menopause, I wished for a workplace culture that embraced dialogue around these natural life transitions. There was no policy for menopause. There was no space in the workplace for women to even raise these issues. It became clear that fostering an environment where employers and employees can openly discuss menopause is not just a nicety but a necessity.
Imagine the relief of sharing experiences, seeking understanding, and collaborating on adjustments that cater to women’s changing needs. Open and honest conversations can help destigmatise this time in a woman’s life as something negative, and instead create supportive colleagues.
In the absence of workplace support, which we should all implore our employers to have, and alongside it, where we are fortunate enough to find it; how can we make small changes to alleviate workplace stress?
Strategies to Manage Menopause at Work
Embrace the Change:
Change is inevitable, and as we hit the golden milestone of 50, it might feel like we’re in for a roller coaster ride. Let’s start by understanding the symptoms – you are not going crazy! Change can bring about a whirlwind of emotions, and it’s essential to recognize and acknowledge them. Embrace the transition with open arms, knowing that it’s a natural part of life’s journey.
Work with your company’s wellness department to explore ways the workplace can accommodate and support you. Find the courage to engage in open and vulnerable conversations within the professional setting. Not all of us may feel at ease discussing these matters but consider how your bravery can positively impact and pave the way for other women in your workplace.
Let Go of the Need to be Perfect:
Zoom out and take a big-picture view of your life. It’s time to let go of the unrealistic pursuit of perfection. Don’t do it all – assess the importance of everything. Prioritise tasks and activities that truly align with your goals and values. This shift in mindset allows for more joy and fulfilment in your daily life.
Ask for Help:
Taking a step back and acknowledging when you need assistance is a sign of strength, not weakness. As 50-year-olds, we’ve accumulated a wealth of experience, but that doesn’t mean we have to do everything alone. Delegate tasks, seek support from friends and family, and build a strong network around you. Together, we can achieve more and lighten the load.
Take Care of Your Well-being:
Our well-being is the cornerstone of a fulfilling life. Prioritize your nutrition, effectively handle stress, and integrate regular exercise into your daily routine. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish – have “me-time” without guilt. Whether it’s enjoying a hobby, reading a book, or simply taking a leisurely walk, prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
Explore options such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or natural hormone management therapies to alleviate and manage your symptoms effectively. It is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized medical advice. Remember that every body is different, so experiment with what works for you.
Navigating Menopause at Work
In envisioning a workplace culture that unmutes menopause, it becomes clear that fostering open and honest conversations is not just a nicety but a necessity. Strategies to manage menopause at work, such as embracing change, letting go of perfection, and asking for help, are essential for both individuals and organisations. By implementing small changes and advocating for workplace support, we can create an environment where women feel understood, supported, and empowered during this significant life transition. It’s time to destigmatise menopause at work and pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive professional journey for women over 50.