Menopause in the Workplaceby Pat Duckworth
- What age group do menopause symptoms affect?
- How do I spot that someone is experiencing menopausal symptoms?
- Why do I need to do anything to help?
- How can I help them?
- How do I start that conversation about menopause with a member of my team?
1. What age group do menopause symptoms affect?
The average age of menopause in the UK is 52, but women can start to experience menopause symptoms as early as 40 and these can continue for 15 to 20 years.
2. How do I spot that someone is experiencing menopausal symptoms?
The most obvious sign of menopause is hot flushes. These can affect men as well as women and can vary in intensity and duration. Generally, the person experiences a change in the heartbeat, followed by a sensation of heat spreading up from the chest into the face and head and possibly to the rest of the body. This may be accompanied by excessive sweating. Because this symptom is so obvious, it can be very embarrassing for the sufferer.
Some women become more susceptible to hormone-related migraines. Mood swings are another symptom which may become evident, particularly in women who are normally even tempered.
You may spot that someone is experiencing symptoms because of a change in their attendance at work or their relationship with other members of their team.
3. Why do I need to do anything to help?
Many women going through the perimenopause will not be affected by menopause symptoms, but for those who experience frequent or intense symptoms it may adversely affect their performance, their attendance at work and their relationship with their colleagues.
Sometimes, colleagues can be insensitive and make derogatory remarks about hot flushes or the menopause generally. This could be viewed by the woman as sexist, ageist or even bullying and needs to be dealt with.
4. How can I help them?
Acknowledging that the employee has a problem and giving them a chance to talk about what they are experiencing may be sufficient. The important thing is to give them the opportunity to express what they need in order to maintain their performance at work. This may be as simple as being located closer to a window or toilets or providing them with a fan.
Women experiencing prolonged periods of stress or depression may need appropriate adjustments to be made to their levels of work or the tasks they undertake.
5. How do I start that conversation about menopause with a member of my team?
Remember that every woman’s experience of menopause is unique, so don’t start the conversation by saying that you know what they going through because of what happened to you/your mother/your sister and so on.
Start by reassuring the person that there is nothing ‘wrong’ and then tell them what you have observed – for example, facts about their behaviour, performance or attendance. Do not mention the word ‘menopause’ unless the person tells you that is what the issue is. Follow up by asking them if there is anything that you can help them with or if there is anything that they want to discuss.
If the person does not want to discuss anything, just let them know that they can come and talk to you at any time.