The North American Menopause Society reports that menopause usually occurs at age 51, on average. Many women of this age are active in the workforce. The symptoms of menopause can interfere with a woman’s ability to work. Some women may even feel that their peers view them as less competent due to the menopausal complications they’re experiencing.
What issues might I experience?
Hot flashes are one of the most well-known symptoms of menopause. During a hot flash, intense feelings of heat radiate throughout the entire body, especially on the face, neck, and chest. They usually occur alongside profuse sweating, followed by chills.
One of the most obvious problems hot flashes pose for women in the workplace is temperature control. The preset temperature inside a building or indoor workplace may be too high for a woman experiencing regular hot flashes. If a woman works outdoors, warm weather can intensify hot flashes. Some jobs may require fitted clothing or heavy protective equipment, which can exacerbate hot flashes and increase sweating.
Lack of breaks
During menopause, many women report dizziness, fatigue, and an increased need to urinate. Although closing your eyes and resting may relieve these symptoms, that’s not possible in some work environments.
If you have a frequent urge to urinate, you may need to visit the restroom more often than co-workers who are not menopausal. However, your job may have a strict policy on breaks or you may not have adequate access to the restroom. This can make dealing with this symptom of menopause a challenge.
Stress and negative attitudes
For many women, menopause causes a great deal of stress, and being at work can make it worse. Heavy workloads, inflexible hours, and lack of adequate vacation time or sick days make it difficult to relax and deal with the stress caused by menopause. The physical symptoms of menopause may cause embarrassment, which can worsen feelings of stress.
Externally, women going through menopause may experience negativity, judgment, ridicule, harassment, inappropriate comments, and a general lack of understanding from others.
Many women having hormone replacement therapy for menopause experience nausea. Some cases may be mild, while others may be moderate to severe. In these cases, nausea can interfere with your ability to go to work or perform proficiently at work.
What can I do?
While there’s no official law that addresses menopause, there is legislation that states that employers must protect the health, safety, and welfare of all employees. This includes women who are having a difficult time at work due to menopausal symptoms.
One of the most effective ways to overcome any barriers to understanding menopause is to communicate. Many women are embarrassed to discuss menopause, especially with male supervisors and managers. However, lack of communication and understanding can make work even more difficult.
Discuss your needs with your bosses and co-workers. You stand to gain more convenient shifts, more frequent breaks, and a more flexible schedule. Don’t be afraid to voice specific requests, like temperature control and increased ventilation in working areas.
Addressing your concerns and needs with a manager can give you a sense of support. Educating your manager about what you’re going through can reduce stress and improve the way you feel about going to work.
There are several things you can do outside of work to improve your quality of life in the workplace. Eat a balanced diet of whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables to increase energy, fight fatigue, and provide a general sense of well-being. Regular exercise, especially yoga, can help control stress levels and make the workday easier. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing are also valuable tools that can help you deal with stress in the workplace.
Going through menopause can be an uncomfortable time for any woman, and experiencing it in the workplace is an extra challenge. However, talking to your co-workers and managers about your needs goes a long way toward making your symptoms more tolerable. Maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of work to reduce your symptoms, and speak to your friends, family, and doctor if you feel you need support.