When Jane Hallam started to experience mood swings, fatigue and depression at the age of 47 she was convinced she was having a nervous breakdown. Soon after being prescribed cognitive behavioural therapy by her GP the night sweats started, signalling to Jane that it was actually the menopause making her feel this way, rather than mental health problems. However, the damage to her confidence and her career had already been done, so Jane gave up her job in higher education to start Esteem – No Pause, a range of nightwear, lingerie and loungewear for menopausal women. Here Jane shares her top tips on making your workplace menopause friendly.
Have policies in place
The menopause can have a huge impact on a woman’s performance in the workplace, so just like sickness and pregnancy there should be policies in place on how this is dealt with. This shows employees that you are taking it seriously and encourage women to share the issues they’re having as a result of this natural ageing process with HR, line managers and fellow colleagues, rather than trying to ignore them and carry on. Often women will be unaware that they’re going through the menopause. In your menopause policy clearly highlight the 34 symptoms for female employees and line managers, as this may be an underlying cause of behavioural change.
Allow breaks when needed
Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms of the menopause, they are unexpected, uncomfortable and for many women embarrassing. The sudden change in temperature and the perspiration that follows means that women may have to leave the office or shop floor to relax and cool down. Allowing women to do this without judgement or repercussions will help them feel more comfortable in their workplace.
Women in their 40s and 50s will often have a huge amount of knowledge and experience in their chosen industry, so you don’t want to risk losing them because of the menopause. It could be that you need to be more flexible with women during this time to accommodate their menopause symptoms. This could include later starts, as one symptom of the menopause is insomnia, or reduced working hours as chronic fatigue is another. There are 34 symptoms of the menopause and no two women’s experience is the same so work with the individual to identify what is right for her.
Be lenient with uniforms
If your workforce has to wear a uniform consider being a bit more lenient with women going through the menopause. As discussed earlier, hot sweats are unexpected and can strike at any time, but are often prompted by stress or anxiety. This means women need to wear layers that they can strip off and put back on again after the flush has finished. Also, certain colours are more prone to sweat patches, which can leave women feeling embarrassed long after the flush has finished, so if they request to wear neutral colours or fabrics that are effective in absorbing perspiration, like a wicking fabric, look at how this can be accommodated into your uniform policies.
Talk about it
The menopause is still often surrounded by secrecy and taboos, however it is part of the natural ageing process and all women will experience it. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with your employees openly and honestly, and create a working environment where women feel comfortable to talk about their own experiences without judgement, or sometimes even ridicule. As part of Esteem’s Don’t Pause the Talk campaign we asked our panel of real women how the menopause impacted their careers and many reported having to leave their jobs as they weren’t supported through this life stage. Hear more about that here.
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