It’s time to talk about menopause in the workplace. When one out of every ten women leaves the workforce due to menopause symptoms, it’s a critical time to normalize this universal experience for every woman. Together, Dr. Bitner and Psychologist Mary Jo Baweja share valuable information and insights to help women navigate the challenges of menopause in the workplace from both medical and psychological perspectives.
Menopause Symptoms: Beyond the Physical
“I wish I hadn’t struggled alone” – former patient
Menopause symptoms can take a physical, emotional, and mental toll on your body. Along with hot flashes, brain fog, and fatigue, many women also experience anxiety and depression. In the workplace, menopause can also create additional career challenges, such as reduced productivity, workplace stigma, and decreased confidence as your body experiences new changes.
Mary Jo discusses how women tend to nurture other people, but when something is going on within themselves, they hide it and do it alone. She says, “It doesn’t make any sense, but it was how we [women] were raised. We have to change that dynamic.” 80% of women suffer from menopause symptoms, 40% say their work performance is affected by symptoms, and yet, only 20% of these women discuss treatment options with their doctor. Too often, women struggle to manage their symptoms alone. This common and unnecessary struggle is why it is critical to educate and normalize this time of growth and change.
Five Key Facts About Menopause in the Workplace
- This fact might seem self-explanatory, but due to cultural stigma, it is important to point out that menopause will happen to all women. Some will experience menopause at 35 because of chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, some might at 41 with premature ovarian failure, while others begin to experience symptoms around age 52 with natural menopause. Menopause is a universal experience. It doesn’t just happen to one type of culture at a certain type of age. You are not alone, and there are many types of resources you can explore to work through this unique stage of life.
- Perimenopause is when symptoms start, and these symptoms can affect quality of life. For most women, perimenopause begins around age 44 and can last up to ten years. Symptoms tend to start slowly at first, and common early symptoms include night sweats, sleep disturbances, and heavy, irregular periods. Again, it is important to remember that you are not alone and should not suffer by yourself. This is a natural part of biology. Reframe your mindset to view menopause as a period of growth and an opportunity to get serious about taking better care of your health and wellbeing.
- 20% of women surveyed between the age of 50-65 said that menopause symptoms affected their work daily.
- Women make up 47% of the workforce, and 17% say they have left or are thinking of leaving the workforce due to menopause symptoms. That is 2.5 million women at risk of leaving work at the peak of their careers because of preventable symptoms.
- Help is available. Every woman should be empowered to know why she is having her symptoms, and treatment starts with knowing what is happening and why. There are medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy and antidepressants and psychological support options as well. Psychological support is truly a game changer when it comes to managing symptoms and can look like talking to trusted friends or meeting with a professional therapist. Dr. Bitner notes that sometimes her patients are concerned about starting therapy. She counsels these patients by discussing how therapy helps to organize your thinking and set boundaries and can also provide you with the language needed to navigate menopause in your personal relationships and in your career.
Take Home Tips for Coping with Menopause and Thriving in the Workplace
- Ask for what you need. Women in the workplace say what they want is understanding, the ability to control the temperature, and flexibility when symptoms get the best of them. Yet, 87% of women say they have never mentioned their symptoms to their boss or HR. If you don’t talk about your menopause symptoms and ask for what you need, changes at work won’t happen. Don’t be afraid to speak up about your health concerns! We also encourage leadership and human resource teams to be more understanding and inclusive when it comes to women who are experiencing menopause symptoms. How can you support your employees to create a judgment-free, comfortable work environment?
- Track your habits with the Menopause Transition Scale®. MTS is a validated tool to quantify and track your midlife and menopause symptoms. It is helpful for understanding your triggers and tracking your habits – providing you with baseline knowledge to talk with your doctor about symptoms and treatment options. MTS is also beneficial for your mental health. It validates what you are experiencing and proves that this is not “just all in your head.”
- Practicing SEEDS® can help you feel better and counteract the body changes which happen with menopause. SEEDS® – Seven Essential Elements of Daily Success – focuses on seven essentials that impact your midlife transition. These essentials include: Water, Sleep, Macronutrients, Micronutrients, Fiber, Physical Activity, and Mind/Body Connection. If you supply your body with these basic essentials daily, you are more likely to alleviate symptoms often associated with menopause. SEEDS® is also about intentionality. I want to feel better, I want to be strong, and I want to live life to its potential.
- Gather your tribe. Who are your biggest supporters? Who have you gone to at other challenging points in your life/career? This is NO different. You don’t need to go through menopause alone. Utilize your built-in support systems!
- Normalize talking about menopause at work. Look at this time as an opportunity to advocate for yourself and other women. What types of solutions can you discuss with your manager? For example, “I’m experiencing a hot flash. I need to take a break to get fresh air.” Or, “I’ve been experiencing sleep disturbances lately and haven’t gotten them under control yet. Is there a possibility we can work out a more flexible schedule?” Discussing menopause accommodations helps to reduce cultural stigmas around middle-aged women and helps normalize better working conditions for future generations.
Empowering Women to Take Control of Their Health
At true. Women’s Health, we want you to understand as much about your body as possible. Our team is ready to answer all your questions about menopause symptoms. Our goal is to empower you to take control of your health journey and your menopause experience in the workplace.
Watch and learn practical ways to navigate your career and manage your menopause symptoms in the workplace: